New York Jets: Now’s not the time to worry about Denzel Mims

The receiver’s predicament is worth keeping an eye on, but the New York Jets have bigger, broader things to worry about.

For all the talk about the New York Jets’ perpetual search for a franchise quarterback, metropolitan football has been equally bereft of a homegrown big-play receiver.

It has been nearly 15 seasons since a receiver that originally began his career with the Jets reached four digits in yardage (Jerricho Cotchery in 2007). The Jets have had some offensive teases since then: Robby Anderson was a diamond in the rough of the undrafted, but the Adam Gase era caused him to “lose his love” for the game. Day three Quincy Enunwa came close but saw his metropolitan career eaten away by injury.

Denzel Mims was supposed to end that streak during 2020’s virtual draft. Brought in from the offensive Valhalla that is Baylor, Mims’ arrival was the sweetest of consolation prizes: the Jets passed on several elite receiving talents to draft offensive line anchor Mekhi Becton. While the offensive line required undeniable assistance, it left the Sam Darnold era without the talents of a high-profile receiver. Jamison Crowder had done well in the slot but Darnold’s top options by conventional means consisted of first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman) and antiques from New England (Chris Hogan).

When Mims fell into their lap at 59th overall, Joe Douglas appeared to have pulled off an Ocean’s-style heist: he not only got Darnold his protection but topped it off with weaponry, a potent talent that contributed 28 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards to Waco’s gridiron cause. His name is frequently mentioned in the offensive chapters of the Bears’ record books, appearing alongside collegiate legends like K.D Cannon, Corey Coleman, Tevin Reese, Terrance Williams, and Kendall Wright. That group brought Baylor football to unprecedented modern heights: Mims’ senior squad, for example, went to Sugar Bowl and finished 13th in the final Associated Press poll, the program’s best showing since 1960.

Through the Waco experience, Mims knew what it was like to prop up one historically downtrodden green football franchise. Many expected him to do so with another up north. Alas, Mims has instead become the latest victim of whatever gridiron demon has refused to loosen the grip it has held on the Jets for the last five decades.

True to metropolitan form, Mims’ professional career was beset by factors behind his control. Issues with each of his hamstrings kept him out of training camp activities already handicapped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such ailments cost Mims nearly half of his 2021 season but he left an impact in his limited time: his 357 yards were good for fourth on the woebegone 2020 Jets despite his early absence with 106 of that haul tallied after the catch. The 15.5 yards earned per catch was seventh amongst rookie receivers with 20 catches.

Mims’ mini-emergence didn’t stop the Jets’ new powers that be on the coaching staff from revamping the receiver’s cabinet. They added Corey Davis and Keelan Cole through free agency and used another second-round pick on Elijah Moore. The emergence of the newcomers shifted Mims into the background during training camp and his role has been furthered reduced in the infantile stages of the regular season.

By now, anyone with a passing interest in Jets football knows that Mims partook in only three snaps of the Jets’ opening weekend loss in Carolina. Mims carried on the theme of taking advantage of making the most of whatever scraps were offered to him: his 40-yard reception in the fourth quarter set up the Jets’ final touchdown of a 19-14 final.

Asked about the brewing controversy as the Jets prepare for Sunday’s home opener against New England (1 p.m. ET, CBS), head coach Robert Saleh addressed the Mims restriction. He first blamed the Jets’ stagnant pace in the first half but a far more blunt reveal awaited.

“In that first half, (there were) a lot of three-and-outs, a lot of short drives…Because of it, those (starting) receivers were able to play,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “You roll with your top three guys and if they need a break, that’s where the other guys step in.”

“Mims (has) been doing a good job getting himself a little bit better every day but, he’s got to know, when you’re not one of the main guys, you got to know all three spots and you’ve got to know it at a high level so you can step in and take advantage of all those opportunities,” Saleh continued. “If the Z, the F or, the X needs a break, you’re the first one that goes in because you know all three spots, you can execute at a high level and you can roll.”

Saleh continued to insist that the timing of the game was the primary reason behind Mims’ de facto benching, but his comments suggested something slightly more troubling: Mims simply hasn’t earned extended opportunities.

To that end…there’s little issue.

 Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After the sad circus atmosphere of the Gase era, one no doubt exacerbated assistants like Gregg Williams, Jets fans yearned for accountability from the team’s new boss. Todd Bowles, reborn in Tampa Bay, was beloved by his players but his stoic to a fault personality ran its course. Gase spent half of his public comments insisting that he wasn’t verbally sparring with the franchise’s more renowned faces.

Now, a new coach comes armed with a quotable promise: All Gas, No Brake. If a player isn’t living up to those requirements, it stands to reason that the offender will not earn prime opportunities. It just so happens that a well-invested, supposedly indispensable part of the eternal rebuild’s latest chapter is the subject this time around.

Isn’t this form of accountability that Jets fans wanted and yearned for?

It’s fair for frustration to linger, especially when one looks back at the post-Mims draft board: Carolina safety Jeremy Chinn and Washington rusher Antonio Gibson were among those chosen in the immediate ten picks after him. Mims’ situation is definitely worth monitoring for the rest of the season. But the Jets have far greater, immediate issues to worry about.

If the Jets’ biggest issue was a receiver at an early crossroads in Week 2, they would be very, very lucky. Alas, that’s not the New York way. There are far bigger issues to worry about at this point in time, including how the offensive line is going to tread water until Mekhi Becton comes back…and the group is already reeling from a performance that saw them let up six sacks with Becton in town. The Jets’ defensive issues are also broadly on display through a lack of experience in the secondary, and those issues don’t even account for the vital financial decision looming around Marcus Maye’s future.

The soothing about this situation is that there’s plenty of time for Mims to restabilize his infantile NFL career and his attitude has never been a problem. He’s had every reason to curse the football gods for his current predicament…a chance to prove himself during training camp was partially erased by a bout with food poisoning…but he’s been ready to embrace all opportunities presented to him.

“You always got to battle each and every day no matter where you’re at,” Mims said during camp, per Max Goodman of SI.com. “You can be starting at X or (be the) number one receiver, you gotta battle each and every day because you slack and someone else can come take your spot.”

“I just got to focus on my job and just continue to be myself and focus on my craft so I can get better. If you worry, you won’t get (any) better.”

The apparent experiment in discipline isn’t to say that Saleh and his staff are infallible. If anything, this further shortens a metropolitan honeymoon that’s never lengthy. The pressure particularly rises on offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who must find forge a role for a pricey, talented target.

But this is nowhere near the Jets’ largest issue. If only, many inside and outside the organization likely believe, that was the case.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets continue to deal with the curious case of Denzel Mims

Mims, the New York Jets’ second-round pick from the 2020 draft, played only three snaps in Sunday’s loss in Charlotte.

The best thing you can say about Denzel Mims’ sophomore season opener is that he made the most of his limited opportunities.

Conversation around Mims has reopened after the New York Jets’ 19-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 1 action. Mims partook in only three snaps of the defeat, but featured heavily in one of the game’s most impactful plays: with three minutes remaining in the final frame, Mims’ 40-yard reception situated the Jets at Carolina’s 10-year-line. Corey Davis put in six points on a eight-yard pass from Zach Wilson to create what became the final margin.

Making the most out of limited opportunities has defined Mims’ infantile NFL career: the second-round pick from the 2020 draft tallied 357 yards over the final eleven weeks of last season, 10th amongst rookie receivers in that span. Hamstring woes ate away at his training camp and sidelined him for the first six weekends. Mims’ drafting was part of the Jets’ efforts to find the best of both offensive worlds. They chose blocker Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall choice, passing on several elite receiving talents. Mims, an aerial energizer out of Baylor, was chosen 59th overall.

Despite Mims appeared to be an odd man out of sorts after the Jets revamped their receiving corps this offseason, a relic of a prior coaching regime after the arrivals of Davis, Elijah Moore, and Keeland Cole. That idea gained further traction through Sunday’s snap counts: Mims’ trio ranked well behind reserves like Braxton Berrios (37) and Jeff Smith (9) on a day where both Cole and Jamison Crowder were each unavailable. Despite his late entry, Mims’ 40 yards earned on the aforementioned reception was third amongst New York receivers behind Davis (5 receptions, 97 yards) and Berrios (5 receptions, 51 yards).

(Photo: Getty Images)

Head coach Robert Saleh partly blamed the “sequence of the game” for Mims’ lack of reps, per notes from the Jets. He labeled Davis, Moore, and Berrios as his top three receivers in Carolina. Saleh also said that the Jets’ late offensive pace afforded the comfort to give Mims an offensive opportunity. The Jets’ final drive went 93 yards in 10 plays, doing so in 2:31 as they tried to erase a late two-possession deficit.

“(Mims) has been doing a good job getting himself a little bit better every day but, he’s got to know, when you’re not one of the main guys, you got to know all three spots and you’ve got to know it at a high level so you can step in and take advantage of all those opportunities,” Saleh said. “If the Z, the F or the X needs a break, you’re the first one that goes in because you know all three spots, you can execute at a high level and you can roll.”

“(Sunday) was more of a timing thing where offense really didn’t get rolling until that fourth quarter, which is where you started seeing him show up on the football field,” Saleh continued. “We had those extended drives, I think we had a 10-play, 93-yard drive where the receivers needed a break, and it gave them that opportunity to step in and get action.”

Saleh also mentioned that Cole and Crowder “both have a shot to come back this week” as the Jets prepare for their home opener against the New England Patriots on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Their potential reinseration could create an awkward situation for Mims, whose big-play potential and ability to gain yards after the catch made him attractive to a Jets offense in desperate need of big-yardage situations. Sunday opponent Jeremy Chinn and and Washington rusher Antonio Gibson were among those chosen in the next ten selections.

Finding a place for Mims could be a way for incoming offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur to leave an impact on the New York offense. LaFleur previously worked with the receivers in San Francisco and guided names like Kendrick Bourne, Maquise Goodwin, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk to breakout seasons.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

What are realistic expectations for the 2021 New York Jets?

new york jets, zach wilson

The New York Jets undoubtedly became a better team over the past eight months. But are they a playoff team? ESM’s experts discuss.

The 2020 New York Jets left the franchise’s immediate and long-term future in a rare state of optimistically macabre: after the Jets sunk to the depths of the football underworld…plummeting to dubious valleys that even the cursed Rich Kotite era managed to avoid…any move the team made in the offseason could’ve been seen as an improvement.

With both the Stanley Cup and Larry O’Brien Trophy…not to mention every medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo…earned and bestowed, it’s officially socially acceptable to start forecasting the 2021 NFL season. The metropolitan arrivals of so many elite new faces, of both the rookie (Zach Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore) and veteran (Carl Lawson, Corey Davis) variety have gotten fans excited, as has the hiring of head coach Robert Saleh.

But the ultimate question lingers: after a two-win season and now ensnared in the NFL’s longest active playoff, just how much improvement will the Jets show in the one place it matters…the standings, namely the win column?

ESM’s Jets experts ponder this quandary as the preseason opener against the New York Giants looms on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC)…

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Magliocchetti

To take a page out of another New York sports decisionmaker Brian Cashman, let’s view Joe Douglas’ New York Jets from the perspective of the Death Star.

Ignoring the fact that the Star Wars-based superweapon is destroyed in each of its incarnations, Douglas does have a Death Star at his disposal. But it’s not the behemoth seen in A New Hope (and, by extension, Rogue One), nor is it the partially constructed but “fully armed and operational battle station” from Return of the Jedi. Rather, the Jets’ Death Star resembles the infantile version Vader and Palpatine look over at the end of Revenge of the Sith.

The Jets began this offseason with the hiring of head coach Saleh. In contrast to the Adam Gase hire, a transaction praised exclusively by modern hot take artists, the Saleh move was lauded by on-field participants both domestically and abroad. New York was and is by no means a football destination yet…one needs to establish a victorious on-field prescience before they become that…but the Jets were able to attract several names with championship experience, winners that were attracted to what Saleh was trying to build.

Douglas and Co. could’ve stood pat on the pass rush, a rare 2020 silver lining after the breakouts of Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers. They instead bolstered the unit by bringing in rising pressure artist Lawson and NFC postseason staples Sheldon Rankins and Vinny Curry. Elsewhere on defense, they prepared for Saleh’s reimplementation of the 4-3 with the arrival of linebacker Jarrad Davis, whose finest defensive days came in Florida and Detroit’s similar formations.

On offense, newly minted quarterback Zach Wilson’s arsenal appears to contain more firepower than anything Sam Darnold had to work with. Two-time Super Bowl participant Tevin Coleman is ready to work with potential day three draft gem Michael Carter in the backfield, while the upgraded aerial attack features Davis and Moore uniting with returnees Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims. Mekhi Becton returns on the line with Alijah Vera-Tucker on Wilson’s blindside.

Yet…the playoffs remain a pipe dream.

The AFC East already appears to be under the control of a new potential dynasty in Western New York, so capturing the quartet for the first time since 2002 appears to be out of the question. The North could well send three teams to the postseason, while the West’s mighty Kansas City Chiefs show no signs of slowing down, even with the Los Angeles Chargers rising fast with Justin Herbert. Even with an extra playoff spot, it’s asking a lot for the Jets to establish themselves in the crowded conference.

Even if the AFC wasn’t packed to the brim with contenders, the Jets aren’t fully completed just yet. There were so many holes so fill, so much damage to repair from the Gase era that it was a guarantee that some area of the roster was going to be neglected. One look at the current depth chart shows that the secondary got the raw deal, as inexperienced options like Bless Austin, Ashtyn Davis, and Bryce Hall are set to assume primary roles. On offense, there are plenty of players that can become major contributors (Carter, Moore, Davis), but they lack the experience in the primetime situations they’ve been called upon.

Until Saleh’s group proves otherwise on the field, their dire straits are more indicative of just how poorly the Gase era went. Gase might be gone, but the dark spirits of his tenure will linger over the Jets’ facilities until the fruits of Saleh’s process appear in the win column. A good season in 2021 would be to at least double the two-win tally from last season and perhaps earn an upset win over an elite opponent, a similar process to what the Chargers went through last year with Herbert.

Record Prediction: 6-11

new york jets, zach wilson
Mandatory Credit: New York Jets/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Brendan Carpenter

The New York Jets have a lot of hype leading into the season and for good reason: rookies Wilson and Moore highlight a revamped offense. Lawson adds a much-needed pass rush to a defense that needs it with unproven corners.

The Jets, however, are not a playoff team just yet. Aside from their own play, they find themselves in an increasingly brutal AFC East. Each team is improving, but, at the moment, Gang Green finds themselves behind Buffalo and, most likely, either New England or Miami…maybe even both.

Yes, the future is bright and fans should be excited. All of the excitement should be taken with a grain of salt, though. There need to be reasonable expectations for this season. So, realistically, look for this team to win about 6 games of the newly-implemented 17 game schedule.

Record Prediction: 6-11

carl lawson, new york jets
(Photo: Getty)

Dylan Price

As the Jets head into a season filled with promise, I want to make one thing clear before I begin: I do NOT expect the New York Jets to make the playoffs.

I expect the team to take a significant step up and approach the 7-9 win territory. With that said, I foresee hiccups along the way: Wilson will likely experience significant growing pains early as he leaves Brigham Young University and acclimates to the bright lights of Broadway. I firmly expect struggles from both sides of the ball early as they look to establish a new identity under a new coaching staff. Lastly, I have a bad feeling about the secondary, but guys like Hall and Michael Carter II will likely get better as the season progresses.

On a lighter note, I foresee a strong debut in green and white for Lawson, Rankins, and Davis. Lawson is a legitimate threat to finish in the top ten in sacks, while Rankins and Davis will likely be impact contributors if they can stay healthy. Finally, look for rookies, Michael Carter (the running back) and Alijah Vera-Tucker to make names for themselves early, although the story will be Moore, the budding star receiver.

Record Prediction: 7-10

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: A training camp battle at every position (Offense)

As the New York Jets inch closer to training camp, ESM looks at the offensive roster battles to watch at every position.

Competition has always been a staple at summer camp. But if you’re headed to Florham Park, leave the archery materials at home.

The New York Jets are eight days away from descending upon One Jets Drive for their training camp activities. Once camp commences, they’ll have several positional struggles to solve before Week 1 kicks off in Carolina. ESM takes a look at each spot on the depth chart, sizing up a major battle that should be solved over camp practices and the coming trio of preseason games.

Our primer begins on offense…

 Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Backup QB: James Morgan vs. Mike White

Barring an epic disaster, the Jets will go into Week 1 with second overall pick Zach Wilson as their quarterback. Sitting the star rookie behind a veteran for a year has become a lost art in the modern NFL, even if Kansas City’s Alex Smith-to-Patrick Mahomes transition kept the concept alive for a few more years.

The Jets, though, are apparently planning to go in the completely opposite direction: no one in their quarterback cabinet has thrown a pass in an NFL regular season game. Immediately thrusting Wilson into the starter’s role is one thing, but backing him up with two veteran questions marks is another entirely. But head coach Robert Saleh apparently doesn’t see an issue.

“If you just bring in a veteran who doesn’t know anything about your scheme, he’s learning just like the rookie is,” Saleh told Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “There’s a match that has to happen. There’s a scheme familiarity that has to happen.”

That, of course, begs the question why the Jets didn’t go after someone like fellow former 49ers Nick Mullens, but it’s probably redundant at this point. Until further notice, the backup job comes to Morgan and White.

Morgan probably has the inside edge, if only due to his status as a Joe Douglas draft pick. Chosen in the fourth round of 2020’s virtual draft, the Florida International hasn’t even worn a game jersey yet due to the cancellation of last summer’s preseason. White entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018 and has been on and off the Jets’ practice squad over the last three years. By going with someone inexperienced, it’s clear the Jets aren’t going with the “mentor” route for their backup quarterback. The winner will be judged on late summer showings and their performance in preseason games could be particularly intriguing.

 Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Spell RB: Ty Johnson vs. La’Mical Perine vs. Josh Adams

The primary rushing duties could become a battle as the season goes on. Veteran newcomer Tevin Coleman will probably at least start as the top option before giving way to rookie arrival Michael Carter. It’s fair to assume that Coleman, who worked with new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco, has the early edge though Carter has reportedly impressed New York brass during his first spring sessions.

In training camp, however, there are more immediate, desperate matters to attend to, namely answering the question of who will be the third back.

Behind the Coleman and Carter tandem lies a trio of young projects that could’ve gained more clarity had Adam Gase not become obsessed with a Frank Gore farewell tour. Though injuries and a late placement on the COVID-19 list turned Perine’s rookie season into a wash but Johnson and Adams, spare parts from Detroit and Philadelphia respectively, impressed when called upon, uniting for 411 yards on 83 carries, good for an average of nearly five yards an attempt.

The battle between this trio isn’t a matter of playing time, but will determine roster spots. Even though he’s a Douglas draft pick (also chosen in the fourth round), Perine could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His north/south style may not fit in  LaFleur’s preferred systems that value agility and athleticism, creating a wrong place at the wrong time situation. Meanwhile, the re-signed Adams has worked with Douglas before, sharing a single season with the Eagles.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Top Slot WR: Jamison Crowder vs. Elijah Moore

Over the past two seasons, Jamison Crowder has been far and away the Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon. Through that endeavor, he has become one of the NFL’s most reliable slot options. But does the fact he’s been a reliable weapon in woebegone New York say more about Crowder or just how dire the Jets’ situation has become?

Douglas and Co. spent the offseason upgrading their receiving corps and that included the slot depth chart. Drafting Moore with the second pick of the draft’s second day was seen as a steal by many and he seemingly arrived at the perfect time. The Jets were due some sizable cap savings upon Crowder’s release or trade and they could’ve easily had Moore take over. Instead, they restructured the final year of Crowder’s deal to focus on guaranteed money and will keep both of them in tow for Wilson’s first deal.

Crowder faces a bit of an uphill battle to get his snaps back, as he missed almost all spring activities during his contract dispute. There should still be an opportunity for him amongst the Jets’ revamped receiving corps but it’ll be tough to hold off the rise of a touted rookie.

. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Starting TE: Chris Herndon vs. Tyler Kroft 

Entering his fourth year in New York, Herndon is a rare relic in green. Nothing, however, has lived up to the production of his rookie season (502 yards on 39 receptions) as the more recent stages of his career have been beset by a suspension, injuries, and inconsistency.

Though Herndon somewhat began to resemble his rookie self in the latter stages of last season, the Jets sent him a message this offseason. While they avoided the pricier options on the free agent market (i.e. Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry), they added goal line option Tyler Kroft from Buffalo and re-upped with Daniel Brown. During minicamp, Herndon saw his first team reps go to Kroft and Ryan Griffin. Connor Hughes of The Athletic claimed that Herndon “struggled” to adjust to the new offensive playbook, playing a role in his demotion.

It’s been a while since Kroft was the primary option at tight end, last doing so in Cincinnati during the 2017 campaign. The Rutgers alum re-established himself as a reliable short-yardage and red zone target last season in Buffalo. Time will tell if the Jets turn over the full-time tight end reins to Kroft, or even give Griffin, Brown, or undrafted rookie Kenny Yeboah (11 touchdowns over the last two seasons at Temple and Ole Miss). But If Kroft’s signing even merely lights a fire under Herndon, it will have been well worth it.

 Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line: RG Greg Van Roten vs. Newcomers

A Long Island native (Rockville Centre, to be precise), Van Roten was destined to make a difference in New York. While he endured a bit of an up-and-down season in terms of production, he partook in literally every snap over the Jets’ first 11 games and emerged as a leader and voice of reason when the team’s 2020 affairs became particularly dire.

With the Jets’ left side fortified with Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, the focus turns to the right. Morgan Moses is a reliable one-year solution on the outside, while Van Roten appears to have a good grip on the interior. But the Jets brought in some interesting depth options, including the New York Islanders’ most celebrated new fan, Dan Feeney. Incumbent top left guard Alex Lewis is also set to move over to the right side, while one also can’t forget Cameron Clark, a 2020 fourth-rounder who spent last season preparing to make the transition from tackle to guard.

But Van Roten, who has shockingly tallied only a single accepted penalty in his NFL career, believes that the arrival of Saleh and LaFleur should help provide stability.

“They hire Saleh and it just feels like a weight has been lifted and hope has come back into the building,” Van Roten said, per team reporter Jack Bell. “All we ask for is a fresh start in this league and no one is happier than the Jets. Now we’re on page one, so let’s write this year’s chapter.”

Which offensive training camp battles will you keep an eye on? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

New York Jets 2021 offseason recap: Wide receivers

Not only are the New York Jets’ receivers the most upgraded green groups, but they may also be one of the most improved units in the NFL.

Following the conclusion of minicamp activities, the NFL offseason is officially over. The next time the New York Jets convene in Florham Park, they’ll be getting ready for preseason and regular season action for the 2021 season. 

With the offseason in the rearview mirror, ESM looks back on the green offseason that was, position-by-position. Part three centers on the revamped receiving corps…

Dec 27, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Breshad Perriman (19) attempts to catch the ball as Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) defends during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

How It Started

The Jets’ situation at receiver wasn’t exactly the corps’ fault. Rather, the relative state of neglect more or less served as a condemnation of the Mike Maccagnan era, as the reluctance to add blocking put them in such a dire hole in the catching front.

After letting Robby Anderson walk to Carolina with relatively little resistance, the Jets were in dire straights at receiver. In terms of veterans, they elected to use most of their offseason budget on blocking help. While the veteran blocking assistance (George Fant, Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten) was mostly unproven, it filled a hole that desperately needed to be addressed.

But the proposed solutions on the offensive line handicapped the Jets’ options in terms of help at receiver in the post-Anderson era. Granted, the free agent offerings at receiver weren’t exactly lighting up scoreboards…Anderson, frankly, was arguably the best option…but the Jets were forced to rely on consolation prizes in the form of first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman) and antiques from New England (Chris Hogan). They would join 2019 returnees Jamison Crowder and Braxton Berrios on the top of the depth chart.

The receiving negligence was again made apparent on draft day, when the Jets chose to draft a lineman with the 11th overall pick instead of one of the elite first-round catching talents. Sure, Mekhi Becton’s debut soothed the blow of missing out on Justin Jefferson, Henry Ruggs, CeeDee Lamb, and Jerry Jeudy, but that was of little consolation to the Sam Darnold era. Day two of the virtual draft offered another consolation prize, as Baylor-based big-play threat Denzel Mims fell to the 58th overall selection. However, Mims spent most of his first Florham Park summer on the injured list, though he was able to flash some late potential. Despite partaking in only nine games, Mims was 15th amongst rookies in receiving yards (357) and the seventh-ranked freshman catcher (min. 20 receptions) in average gain (15.5).

New York Giants, Corey Davis
Sep 14, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis (84) in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

How It’s Going

No matter if Darnold came back or if the Jets opted to start a new franchise quarterback era, the Jets were going to make sure their primary passer had a strong posse.

Blessed with a cap space surplus, the Jets wasted no time in upgrading their receiving corps. It was understandable that they’d miss out on the big-name targets. Opting out of the Julio Jones sweepstakes was for the best and it was going to be hard to lure top guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster to an ongoing rebuild. While the Jets emerged from the offseason without a true No. 1 target, they have several players who have established potential to fill that role.

The additions were headlined by the arrival of Corey Davis, a key contributor in the Tennessee Titans’ recent playoff runs. While he lost top receiver duties to A.J. Brown, Davis is coming off a career-best season (984 yards on 65 receptions, five of which went for touchdowns), one that could’ve ended in quadruple digits in yardage had he not dealt with placement on the COVID-19 list. Davis also knows how to perform in the postseason, or at least on a winning team, an uncannily common theme in the Jets’ free agents signings (Tevin Coleman, Sheldon Rankins, the recently reportedly signed Morgan Moses). The same goes for Keelan Cole, a slot option that earned over 2,000 yards over the last four seasons despite constant quarterback turnover in Jacksonville.

In the draft, the Jets were once again blessed with a big-play receiving talent landing in their grasp. The team had a first-round grade on Ole Miss catcher Elijah Moore and was overjoyed when he fell to the 34th overall choice. He’s now on pace to top the depth chart after the strong minicamp showing.

“His work ethic is off the charts,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said in a report from Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press. “His mindset is off the charts. We’re excited to continue working with him so we can see him get better…He’s a dynamic young man.”

While Perriman opted to follow his father’s footsteps in Detroit and Hogan traded in his receiving gloves for a lacrosse stick, the Jets do welcome back both Crowder and Mims to their proceedings. Medical misfortune has befallen Mims once again…a non-COVID illness kept him out of minicamp…but the Jets maintain high hopes for him.

“He’s eager, he’s a really cool dude to work with,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said of Mims in a report from Max Goodman of SI.com. “But he’s just gonna have to get out there. And again, it’s just going to be reps and just going and understanding the speed of the game.”

The Crowder situation was even more interesting. A reliable slot prescience, Crowder was, by far, the most potent and consistent weapon of the two-year Adam Gase era. That, however, probably says more about the futility of the Gase era than it does about Crowder. With the Jets due about $10 million in cap space upon Crowder’s removal, dishing him off to a contender would’ve made sense, but the team instead opted to rework the last year of a three-year deal inked in 2019. Crowder’s now getting about $5 million guaranteed as opposed to $10 million with no assurances.

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets

Are They Better Off?

Not only is the receiving group the most improved unit on the Jets, but it may also be one of the most improved units in the whole NFL.

Time and time again, especially in this era of prioritized offense, we’re told that a receiver is only as good as his quarterback. It’s hard to argue that when you wonder what Larry Fitzgerald’s numbers could’ve been if not for the Arizona quarterback carousel from the football underworld after Kurt Warner’s retirement.

But the right offensive arsenal can do wonders for an incoming quarterback, especially a rookie quarterback preparing to take his first NFL snaps. What the Jets have assembled for Zach Wilson is, on paper, better than anything Darnold ever had to work with. There’s no clear-cut No. 1 man on the current depth chart. Even the touted Moore shouldn’t be crowned before putting on his game jersey. The way this season appears to be shaping out, however, the receiving situation couldn’t be better.

Even though the Jets got a lot better as a team this offseason…if only because there wasn’t much further to plummet after last year…making the playoffs is still going to be a lot to ask for. This receiving corps is perfect in a season of development. It’s more or less a 17-game audition to hold a major role in the potential good days ahead. This time around, those auditioning actually have sizable resumes to display.

Final Offseason Grade: A

How important was it for the Jets to upgrade their receiving corps? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: The fullback experiment set to continue for Trevon Wesco

trevon wesco, new york jets

Some of the more potent offenses in the NFL still feature a fullback. The New York Jets appear to be turning to Wesco to try it again.

Though hope reigns through newcomers, the New York Jets are in no position to turn down any method of boosting their offensive momentum…even if the potential approaches are considered archaic by NFL standards.

The fullback is an endangered species in the modern league, as the days of Mike Alstott and Daryl Johnston have gone the way of the Oilers and the tuck rule. Causes of the countdown to potential extinction have never been truly isolated, though the rise of single-back sets and empty backfields in the shotgun has more or less convinced teams that offensive resources are better spent on receivers and blockers.

But there’s no denying that the fullback still has a role in today’s game and can play an active role in a good team’s success. Several successful squads, including Super Bowl participants, still have a specifically listed fullback on their roster.

That made it a tad more surprising that the Jets didn’t make a stronger push for Kyle Juszczyk, the Bay Area staple that stands as the NFL’s premier fullback. It probably would’ve taken a lot for the Jets to lure Juszczyk over. Juszczyk’s five-year, $27 million contract was one of the first deals announced at the commencement of the movement period, done even before the legal tampering period got underway. But considering the Jets brought several former San Francisco 49er bosses (including Juszczyk’s old offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur), it was still somewhat surprising not to see a larger New York case made.

Even so, the Jets can use all the protection and weaponry they can get, especially with yet another franchise quarterback, Zach Wilson, on the path to his NFL debut. A fullback can provide both, even in its unsung status, though it has been a while since they fully utilized the position. The closest thing the Jets have had to consistent glory days were earned with a fullback in tow. Richie Anderson was a metropolitan essential for a decade while Tony Richardson ended his accomplished NFL career with the Jets’ AFC finalist squads in 2009-10.

New York’s offensive bosses appear to have taken the hint.

“You like to have a fullback. You like to be in those traditional 21-personnel formations. It just keeps the defense balanced a little bit more,” LaFleur said at the end of this week’s minicamp activities, per notes from the Jets. “You can go lead their way so you can control the angles, particularly in the run game and obviously all the play passes that come off of it. (Juszczyk) was the traditional fullback, there’s no doubt, and he’s obviously performed at a high level, maybe one of the best ever, who knows. He’s certainly gotten paid like the best ever, and I love Juice, so he deserves all of it.”

But there’s no use crying about the past. Excuses, after all, don’t exactly have a place in head coach Robert Saleh’s quickly-adapted “all gas, no brake” mantra, nor does looking back at the past. After all, the Jets mostly avoided getting the San Francisco band back together. A major exception was made through running back Tevin Coleman, but the only other Santa Clara holdovers (receiver Matt Cole and running back Austin Walter) face uphill battles to make the roster.

Even if on-field personnel from San Francisco won’t be making the journies to Florham Park and East Rutherford, LaFleur and the new offensive staff won’t hesitate to employ similar looks in their new surroundings.

If LaFleur’s final statements of training camp are any indication, expect the Trevon Wesco experiment to continue behind Wilson. Modern fullback endeavors have often substituted a bred fullback for a tight end, offensive lineman, or even linebacker to play the role. It appears that the Jets plan to utilize the 267-pound Wesco to establish the role again.

Surprisingly, LaFleur has worked with Wesco before, even though their paths never crossed in San Francisco. The 49ers’ staff served as the coaches for the South squad in the 2019 Senior Bowl, where Wesco represented West Virginia. He was used as a fullback throughout the afternoon, earning three receptions in a 34-24 defeat to the North. Three months later, the Jets made him the 121st overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

“We played him a little bit at fullback and got to know him,” LaFleur recalled. “He was really the same guy there as he is here in terms of his personality. He’s a very confident dude, he loves being out there and yes, he is our fullback right now.”

Wesco is no stranger to the fullback experiment, as the Jets have tried to work him into the role over the past two seasons. The fourth-round selection burst onto the scene with a memorable showing in a rare regular season contest against the Giants. A fullback dive to Wesco on a one-yard fourth down produced a first down and kept an eventual Jets scoring drive going. He’d later go on to recover a backfield fumble the following week in Washington. Wesco likewise earned two reception in more traditional tight end duties, each of which went for first downs.

Last season’s fieldwork didn’t go so well. Wesco got only a single carry, an unsuccessful third-and-one carry deep in Arizona Cardinal territory. The project was more or less shut down when Wesco suffered an ankle injury in practice, but it’s clear that LaFleur wants to reestablish it. It could wind up being the way that Wesco plays his way onto the Jets’ Week 1 roster. Doing so as a tight end is a less certain endeavor with former Buffalo Bill Tyler Kroft added to the proceedings.

Wesco was downright euphoric when discussing his duties as a fullback with team reporter Randy Lange last season.

“I like it,” the former Mountaineer said. “You’ve got to be a man to be back there, that’s how I look at it. Not a lot of people want to run five yards, full speed, collision.”

August’s training camp, as well as a trio of exhibition games, should help the Jets further establish the offensive identity they’re pursuing. LaFleur admits that Wesco probably isn’t going to be the next Juszczyk…then again, that might not even exist…but he sees him as a prime spark that can ignite the Jets’ offensive fire.

The Jets, according to LaFleur, don’t need another Kyle Juszczyk. He says that Wesco’s size (over 25 pounds heavier than “Juice”) could in fact allow LaFleur and his staff to accomplish things he wasn’t able to in San Francisco.

“Is he going to do all the same stuff that (Juszczyk) could do? Probably not. Is he going to do some stuff that (Juszczyk) couldn’t do? Absolutely,” LaFleur said. “He’s a bigger body, he’s longer. He’s going to be able to play a little bit more inline, so we can use him in multiple ways, whether it be 21 or your typical 12 personnel formations. So, he’s embracing it.

“The fullback, kind of like our tight end, which obviously Wesco is a tight end, has a lot of moving parts and you’ve got to be able to process what’s going on post-snap and change direction, do all that kind of stuff. It’s going to be a challenge but he’s a guy that has done a really good job at it and it’ll be really cool when we put on the pads and get into training camp and preseason.”

Should the Jets continue to use Wesco as a fullback? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Returning New York Jets receivers in an interesting spot

The makeover on the New York Jets’ receiving depth chart has left some of their incumbents in a slightly compromising position.

 

The New York Jets’ offseason renovations to their wide receiver depth chart were so transformative and aesthetically pleasing, the powers that be at HGTV probably took notice.

This time last year, the Jets’ more optimistic hopes at receiver included a first-round washout seeking to extend his career (Breshad Perriman) and an artifact from the New England antique shop that’s now playing lacrosse (Chris Hogan). That island of misfit toys didn’t even have the benefit of a minicamp or preseason to build chemistry and the absence was quite apparent once the season began.

Jets management spent the ensuing offseason restocking the arsenal in preparation for a new franchise quarterback’s arrival. Through their offensive splurging, New York has created a group that has the aura of a happy medium: not quite reminiscent of the Don Maynard/George Sauer days but certainly an upgrade over last season. Former Tennessee Titan Corey Davis is projected to be the top catcher while first-round talent Elijah Moore fell into the Jets’ lap in the early stages of round two last April. Davis’ fellow AFC South transfer Keelan Cole is likewise hopping on board.

While there’s no “established” No. 1 receiver in this group…though one could argue Davis is fairly close…the group is stacked with potential and is part of by far the most potent offensive attack they’ve had in recent memory.

The hype of the newcomers has cast a slight pall on the rest of the depth chart: what happens to the leftovers of the Adam Gase era?

As the Jets carry on with minicamp practices in Florham Park, six receivers linger from the 2020 season. The status of two may be well accounted for: Crowder has one more year on his (renegotiated) contract and the Jets have some decent hopes for 2020 second-round choice Denzel Mims, who gets another de facto rookie year after working through injuries in the last.

The outliers are all Joe Douglas signings that are now facing an uphill battle to make the roster of a team that might have some expectations attached to it. Last season’s calamities didn’t exactly give them a chance to showcase their talents. Mismanagement from a beleaguered coaching staff in over its head and injuries/medical protocols didn’t exactly give them a chance to make a case to stay for the potential glory days ahead. This week’s minicamp and the rest of the summer schedule will provide fateful opportunities to extend their NFL careers.

At the forefront of the list are Braxton Berrios and Vyncint Smith, the most experienced catchers amongst the retained. Berrios was the only listed receiver who partook in all 16 games last season, setting career-bests with 394 yards on 37 receptions. The former Patriot also served as the Jets’ primary return man, sharing kickoff duties with in-season acquisition Corey Ballentine.

While the Florham Park focus during minicamp and organized team activities have centered on newcomers like Moore and Zach Wilson, Berrios managed to stand out during the proceedings, developing an early rapport with Wilson. The Miami alum even managed to go somewhat viral when raced off to a touchdown to the tune of a farewell head nod to cornerback Jason Pinnock.

“Brax is smart guy, I think that’s one of his best attributes,” Wilson said of Berrios, per DJ Bien-Aime of the New York Daily News. “He’s a slippery player he gets in there he runs some great routes.”

Berrios has become a bit of the prototypical journeyman receiver, one that shined a team that had nothing to lose. In the midst of the Jets’ woebegone 2020, Berrios established himself as a reliable option on the screen and on the jet sweep (29 yards on a trio of rushing attempts, building on a dual-threat potential originally showcased with the Hurricanes). He also handled the primary slot duties when the top weapon, Crowder, was medically sidelined.

Back in January, before the Jets loaded up on receiving help, Berrios explained to team reporter Ethan Greenberg his ambitious desire to become a “Swiss Army Knife” in the ongoing attempt to keep his New York career rolling.

“At the end of the day, my role is to flourish wherever I’m playing,” Berrios said. “I took over in that slot position and tried to do what I could to put our team in the best position to win. When he came back, obviously that was diminished because he’s the starting slot receiver. That took reps off my count, but I tried to get in where I fit in. I would do anything. I started coming out of the backfield a lot more.”

Berrios has also held down the special teams fort as the Jets try to get over the loss of Pro Bowler Andre Roberts. In 2019, he was one of two returners to average over 10 yards on punts (the other being Diontae Johnson in Pittsburgh).

Elsewhere on the Jets’ depth chart is the case of Smith, another relatively long-tenured Jet as he enters his third year with the team. The former Houston Texan was one of the earliest signings of the offseason, rejoining on a new contract back in March. Injury issues limited to seven games and prevented him from building on career-best numbers from 2019 (225 yards on 17 receptions and a 19-yard rushing touchdown).

Smith’s misfortune opened up the opportunity for Berrios but the quick reunion (one year, $1 million contract) shows that the Jets were at least impressed enough to give him a chance to earn his roster spot back. He got off to a tough start in minicamp (a dropped ball led to a Wilson interception, per Connor Hughes of The Athletic) but later recovered with a deep diving grab from James Morgan.

The rest of the returnees are a group of speedy, unique talents who will be interesting to view through a new regime and aided with the benefit of three summer exhibitions this time around. Former college quarterback Jeff Smith earned a solid look last season with 167 receptions on 17 receptions. The prior coaching staff had high hopes for undrafted free agent Lawrence Cager, a touchdown specialist and Berrios’ fellow former Hurricane who was denied a true opportunity due to injuries, a trend that unfortunately continued during OTAs. Other comebackers include Josh Malone and DJ Montgomery.

Temptation is there to eliminate any past reminder of the past two seasons, campaigns that yielded a combined nine wins and untold amounts of offensive horror. But diamonds in the roughest of football roughs could help the Jets navigate this new terrain and help get the tenure of a new guard rife with offensive hope off to a good start.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets run game could be the long-sought offensive gamechanger

As Le’Veon Bell burns another bridge, the New York Jets’ current rushing attack could become one of their most impactful areas.

For Le’Veon Bell, it appears to be three teams down and 29 to go.

The former New York Jets running back has apparently torched another bridge for himself when it comes to NFL employment, as Bell said he would “retire first” before playing another season with Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs. Bell’s declaration came, of all places, in an Instagram comment section, as fans bombarded him with questions on a post revealing someone spent over $700 at McDonald’s. Bell joined the eventual AFC champions mid-season after the Jets let him go after 17 games in green but was used sparingly (63 carries over nine games). He has since apologized for the arena in which he posted his comments, but reiterated his displeasure for his time in Kansas City. 

The Bell experiment, one that cost the Jets over $52 million, came at a curious time on the NFL timeline, one that has placed an increased reliance upon aerial antics. Since 2010, only two top-ten rushers (Marshawn Lynch, LeGarrette Blount) have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. No leading rusher has triumphed since Terrell Davis in 1998. Thus, it was odd to see the Jets shell out so much for a dying art in the modern NFL, one that may have indirectly played a role in the recent offensive overhaul that ended the Sam Darnold era. With so much being dealt to Bell, other areas (i.e. receiving and blocking) were neglected.

Bell’s latest overpass arson allows his former employers to look back and realize just how much the situation behind the quarterback has improved. Interestingly, the Jets have gone for a more minimalist approach, adding two-time Super Bowl participant Tevin Coleman on a short deal worth $2 million, retaining a trio of young veteran projects in La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, Josh Adams, and a draft pick Michael Carter. Attention has centered on the Jets’ passing transactions, including a new quarterback (Zach Wilson) and several big-play threats (Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, Keelan Cole). The Jets have also been renovating the offensive line, adding extra first-round choice Alijah Vera-Tucker to work next to Mehi Becton. New York also reportedly remains in the Morgan Moses conversation.

But despite the obvious upgrades in the passing game, this new approach when it comes to the rushers, one more conventional in the lens of the modern NFL, could be what truly awakens a dormant offense.

The relatively ignorance of the Jets run game is understandable in a sense: the Jets haven’t had a game-changing receiver since the magic of the Brandon Marshall/Eric Decker tandem during the star-crossed 2015 campaign. Robby Anderson nearly became that guy, but the Jets let him walk to Carolina with relatively little resistance. But trying to reverse fortunes fully through the passing game didn’t work out the last time around. It’s simply not fair to place the responsibilities of a metropolitan resurrection on players like Wilson and Moore. A strong run game in this year of development could help lighten that burden.

Even with legitimate improvements that truly make the Jets a better team…and not only because last year’s two-win campaign really couldn’t have made things much worse…asking the Jets to make the playoffs is going to be a tall task until on-field results prove otherwise. This season provides the perfect opportunity to experiment and work through any lingering issues they have before they plan to reintroduce themselves to professional relevancy. If they pull off an upset or two along the way, even if it’s as simple as topping the mediocre Patriots to end a ten-game losing streak against the Flying Elvises, call it an added bonus.

The developmental group of rushers can help them work toward the modest, yet attainable, goal.

Jan 13, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) runs the ball against Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Nigel Bradham (53) during the first quarter in the NFC Divisional playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Gold in a former 49er

Signing Coleman helps with the issues of youth and inexperience. The former Falcon and 49er has played an integral role in championship-contending squads and is a rare New York representative (though one of several veteran acquisitions) that brings playoff experience with him. Knee and shoulder ailments limited him to 87 total yards of offense over eight games last season in San Francisco. But, arriving on an affordable one-year deal and having proved serviceable in a lesser-heralded but nonetheless essential role, Coleman’s redemption story is one the Jets can afford to co-author (unlike that of Julio Jones).

New Jets head coach Robert Saleh knows about the impact Coleman can have on a team. One of his primary tasks in practice as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator was to find a way to stop Coleman, who spent the last two seasons in the Bay Area with Saleh. He believes Coleman personifies the “all gas, no brake” mantra

“His leadership, his on-the-field-demeanor, just all of it, his practice habits, he represents what we covet,” Saleh in a report from Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press. “When he gets the ball in his hand and he makes that one cut, it’s like he’s shot out of a cannon. He’s got tremendous speed, he’s got a tremendous mindset when the ball is in his hand, in terms of breaking tackles, falling forward, creating positive yardage.”

Though Coleman is by far the most accomplished name in the Jets’ current rushing room, it’s far from a guarantee that he’s going to be the primary ground option. The seventh-year veteran is faced with a goal of not only making an impact with his new employers but potentially extending his NFL career into his 30s.

“I’m a fast guy, I’m a strong guy, I’m big,” The 28-year-old said in Waszak’s report. “So I’ve definitely got a lot in my tank to prove myself.”

jets, michael carter
Jan 28, 2021; National running back Michael Carter of North Carolina (7) runs the ball during National practice at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama, USA; Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

UNC You at the Top?

A lot of good vibes emerged from the Jets’ optional workouts earlier this month, if only because the sense of existential dread of the Adam Gase era has vanished along with the vanquished head coach. In fact, one can chalk any positive feeling the Jets have had since last holiday season on the Monkey’s Paw-style condition that last season was so unbearable that any offseason move would’ve felt like a step in the right direction.

One of the more subtle moves of that endeavor was the drafting of Michael Carter…namely the running back Michael Carter, though the Jets also have hopes for his fellow Michael Carter, this one being an untreated cornerback out of Duke.

The offensive Carter is a rusher from North Carolina, chosen in the early stages of the draft’s third day. Saturday at the draft is often a test of one’s football will, a day where you’re more likely to find Star Wars characters and orangutans than immediate starters. The Force, however, appears to be strong with Carter.

The former Tar Hell earned rave reviews during the voluntary portions of OTAs and instantly became a favorite target of fellow rookie Zach Wilson. A common theme in praise for Carter appears to be that he personifies the outside zone tendencies new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur would love to implement. It was one of the first things Carter noticed when the Jets made him the 107th overall pick of the draft earlier this spring.

“I think my change of direction and my stop-start ability, I think it compliments this system well,” Carter said in a report from DJ Bien-Aime of the New York Daily News. “I’ve been running pretty much wide zone since I was born. So it’s something that really comes naturally to me. We read a lot of it in college, even in high school I did, even in youth football I did. So I’m very familiar with it. I’m just excited to get in the system.”

Nov 22, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New York Jets running back La’Mical Perine (22) is congratulated after scoring a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Left Behind

The Jets have engaged in a de facto purge of the Gase era, one that has left little, if any, reminder of the former New York boss on its 2021 masthead.

Perine, Johnson, and Adams (the lattermost earning a new one-year deal for next season) are three of the rare leftovers from Gase’s cursed watch, namely the truly garish latter of his two campaigns. Conventional wisdom seemed to hint at a great opportunity for the group when Bell was let go, as the Jets’ instant removal from the playoff picture gave them plenty of opportunities to hold auditions for future roles. Gase, however, instead opted to give the 38-year-old Frank Gore a de facto retirement tour, almost writing his application to the 16,000-yard club for (Gore did reach that number, sitting third all-time behind Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton).

To the casual observer, Perine seems destined to become an unfortunate casualty, even if his status as a Jets seems defined by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time last season, he was in Carter’s position as a fourth-round pick that could make a difference but any hopes of impressing during the spring/summer practice traditions were undone by factors far beyond his or anyone remotely associated with football’s control: the COVID-19 pandemic. Perine himself carved out an opportunity (232 yards on 64 carries) but his season was plagued by both an ankle injury and placement on the COVID/reserve list.

Perine’s propensity for north/south style rushing as compared to speed and agility cherished by LaFleur has led some to label him the odd man out, ending his green career before it can truly get started. The return of preseason football should offer the Florida alum and 2019 Orange Bowl MVP an interesting, new opportunity as he embarks on one of the more intriguing battles of training camp.

Meanwhile, Johnson and Adams account for what passes as the closest thing the Jets have had to consistency in their run game since the underrated days of Chris Ivory. With Gore and Perine both missing a December tilt against Las Vegas, the pair provided the most lucrative rushing game the Jets had had in several seasons. It was forgotten in the wake of Gregg Williams’ doomed final blitz, but the two united for 178 yards. Johnson even reached triple digits, the first in New York since Isaiah Crowell’s one shining green moment in 2018.

Denied a full showcase by Gase’s Gore gambit last fall, Johnson and Adams face a bit of an uphill battle in carrying on their metropolitan careers. But the pair is mostly used to it, as they’ve built sizable tenures considering where they began. Johnson was drafted by Detroit in 2019’s sixth round but made the most of his limited opportunity by earning a 4.7 average on his 54 carries. Adams was undrafted out of Notre Dame but wound up joining current Jets general manager Joe Douglas’ former stomping ground in Philadelphia. He played his way into the Eagles’ roster when injuries ate at the veteran rushers. Competing in summer showdowns should be nothing new, but if they make it, they’ll provide an invaluable service to a long-sought hopeful chapter of the Jets’ perpetual rebuild.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: The best point to draft each offensive position

The New York Jets will definitely take a quarterback second overall, but where could they take some other offensive roles? 

The New York Jets know what they have to do when it comes to the NFL Draft, which begins on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network). Questions, however, still linger. Who will they pick? When will they address each position and need?

ESM attempts to answer the latter question, starting with the offensive end…

Quarterback

It’s more or less a foregone conclusion that the Jets are taking a quarterback with the second overall pick, and John Beck has all but confirmed that it’s going to be his pupil and fellow BYU legend Zach Wilson. Whether it’s Wilson or a non-Provo surprise, the Jets have no other choice. The Deshaun Watson sweepstakes are over and their current options are James Morgan and Mike White, they of a combined zero NFL passes. Everything they’ve done this offseason has led to this: it’s quarterback or bust with their highest choice since 1996.

The Jets are in desperate need of a backup, but the draft is definitely not the place to get that, a la the Washington draft in 2012 (Robert Griffin III at No. 2, Kirk Cousins in the fourth round). Besides, they’re already burdened with one unnecessary quarterback, inexplicably draft Morgan in the fourth round before instant contributors like Gabriel Davis and DeeJay Dallas. There’s no need to add another after Wilson.

The Perfect Spot: No. 2 pick

Running Back

No matter who the Jets draft at second overall, his job can be made a whole lot easier if they have a serviceable run game to help him out. They had a trio of young projects (La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, Josh Adams) but enjoyed a sizable veteran upgrade capable of making an impact through the addition of Tevin Coleman. While Coleman is only in town on a one-year deal, the addition allows the Jets to bide their time in finding a long-term solution at running back. Adding another young rusher to the mix sounds fair, but Coleman and a deep rushing class allow the Jets to address other needs with their early picks.

The Perfect Spots: Day 3

Wide Receiver

The receiver spot was one of the most drastically upgraded areas on the Jets’ roster through free agency. While the Jets might still lack a true No. 1 target, they now have four guys who can realistically fill and compete for that role (newcomers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole join incumbents Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder). Much like Coleman, the free agency haul allows them to be patient, though they could still be inspired to take a receiver after they fulfill their early needs.

The Perfect Spots: Round 3 and beyond

Tight End

The last survivor from their ill-fated fashion show, Chris Herndon is perhaps the most prominent face left over from the Todd Bowles era. Though he has struggled to maintain his rookie year production thanks to a suspension and injuries, last season ended on a promising note (11 receptions, 97 yards, 2 touchdowns over the last couple of games). That might be enough for them to wait a little bit before they add a potential replacement.

Beyond the brief Herndon resurgence, there’s a drastic talent drop in this position class after the highly coveted Kyle Pitts, who will likely be long gone by the time the Jets make their second pick in the 23rd slot. The addition of Tyler Kroft and re-signing of Daniel Brown also ensures that the Jets can wait to add another tight end. It’s not an elite group on the current roster by any stretch, but there’s enough solid personnel here that the Jets can worry about more desperate areas come Thursday and Friday.

The Perfect Spots: Day 3

Offensive Line

When it comes to their blocking, the Jets should draft early and draft often.

Had the Jets kept Sam Darnold, the second overall pick could’ve well been used on a blocker (i.e. Penei Sewell). While the Jets made some improvements throughout the roster, the blocking went mostly unaddressed as they added only Dan Feeney and Corey Levin, who likely won’t provide the blocking revolution the Jets need when making the transition to a new franchise quarterback. They have the capital to make up for lost time in the draft to put some heat on the incumbent blocking group and give the thrower, Wilson or otherwise, a solid foundation to work with.

Drafting Mekhi Becton and passing on elite receiving talent with the 11th overall pick was last season was a necessary move that paid big dividends. But more work is needed. Any pick used on a blocker after the inevitable quarterback at No. 2 can be a wise investment that continues Joe Douglas’ quest to make amends for the blocking negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era.

The Perfect Spots: Any pick beyond No. 2

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Why the New York Jets must draft offensively at No. 23

New York Jets

It’s a foregone conclusion that the New York Jets will draft a quarterback at No. 2. But what will they do with their latter Thursday choice?

If this is the most pressing of problems the New York Jets have for the remainder of 2021, they’ll be one of the most, if not the most, blessed teams in all of professional sports.

The Jets have a welcome dilemma when the first round of the NFL Draft is held in Cleveland on April 29 (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network). They’re one of a handful of teams with multiple first round picks, first choosing in the second slot before reaping the fruits of the Jamal Adams trade at 23rd overall. Though the second pick is more than likely spoken for…barring a jaw-dropping pre-draft surprise, the Jets will undoubtedly be taking a quarterback…there’s a major decision to be made in the latter station, a place where this draft’s predictability should be long gone.

When you’re a team like the Jets…coming off a two-win season, one even more brutal than this star-crossed franchise’s usual standards…

 Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Make the quarterback as comfortable as possible

When it comes to the second overall pick, the Jets have answered the question of what. Unless they plan on starting James Morgan, their 2020 fourth-round choice who has yet to wear an NFL game jersey, they’re drafting a non-Trevor Lawrence quarterback, be it Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, or an unknown third party.

Whoever it is, he’s going to need help, whether it’s through protection or weaponry (more on each of those in a minute). One of the things that doomed Sam Darnold’s New York career was the lack of stability on his end of the ball. By the time his third season began, no receivers from his rookie season (with the exception of tight end Chris Herndon) remained on the New York roster and his starting offensive line was completely different from even the year prior. The Jets need homegrown talent to help their new, young franchise man get used to the NFL game in a hurry.

The draft is also a more attractive option for the Jets to find offensive help because their last few big-ticket offensive arrivals from elsewhere (i.e. Le’Veon Bell) haven’t worked out. If they can build through the draft…and there’s a prime opportunity with 21 picks over the next two years…they can lay a foundation and rebuild a winning culture.

 Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Big plays are here again

So the Jets need offense, but that decision begets a decision: should they take a box score contributor or build the wall in front of Wilson/Fields/Other?

In the case of the former, it’s been a while since the Jets have had a truly explosive offense. It’s only been five seasons since Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker put up dueling 1,000-yard tallies during the bittersweet 2015 campaign, but that might as well be an eternity in football years. Making matters worse is that the Jets made little effort to keep Robby Anderson, the closest thing they had to a consistent playmaker. He posted career-best number in Carolina last season and now reunites with Darnold.

The Jets have assembled a decent core of veterans with Corey Davis and Keelan Cole joining the fray alongside incumbent slot man Jamison Crowder and sophomore Denzel Mims. But while drafting Mekhi Becton was a move no one could truly quarrel with, the Jets passed on name-brand receiving talent like Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and future All-Pro Justin Jefferson. This supposed sin can be rectified at No. 23, where names like Rashod Batman, Kadarius Toney, Terrace Marshall, and Tutu Atwell should all be available. Sure, the receiving class is deep enough that the Jets could find a receiver at No. 34…the second pick in Friday’s drawings…but the lack of offensive firepower has reached crisis levels in New York. Over the past five seasons, have the Jets have reached the four-touchdown/extra point plateau in 16 games, a mark besting only four teams (Chicago, Washington, Denver, and the Jets’ blue roommates in East Rutherford). That lack of production is ridiculously unsustainable in today’s NFL, and it shows: that group, including the Jets, has failed to win a playoff game over the last half-decade.

Many have theorized that the Jets could take a running back in the slot, but the Jets have resolved that issue, if only temporarily, through an affordable one-year deal with Tevin Coleman and a trio of young projects (La’mical Perine, Ty Johnson, Josh Adams). Besides, the recent first-round running back crop…especially when it gets to the later stages has shown it’s not worth it, at least not for their needs. It’d be great to bring in a, say, Rashaad Penny (drafted 27th by Seattle in 2018), but they can’t afford to use a first-round pick on a reliable spell option with a first-round pick. If they do address rushing, a power option like Rhamondre Stevenson could be a valuable latter-day steal.

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton
Credit: Joe McManus

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General manager Joe Douglas has had a small habit of having his football cake and eating it too, even if the dessert isn’t fully baked yet. When he took Becton with his first draft pick last season, he filled the big-play receiving potential slot with Mims, a Big 12 star from Matt Rhule’s Baylor Bears.

This offseason, Douglas has noticeably improved the team’s offensive chances through skilled talents that should at least keep fantasy football players’ eyes on Jets games (Davis, Coleman, Cole). He addressed the defense as well through 4-3 talents that will fit the preferred scheme of Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich. But the Jets remain understaffed on their blocking despite Douglas opening his checkbook for Connor McGovern, George Fant, and Greg Van Roten. Their quarterbacks were still on the run and little has been done to rectify that this offseason. Dan Feeney is high in personality but low on analytical rankings. Corey Levin hasn’t partaken in a regular season game since 2018.

Thus, it might help to continue building their fortress around the new thrower and improved rushing attack. Blocking draftees rarely send the draft parties into a frenzy…legendary blocker D’Brickashaw Ferguson was booed by a fanbase lusting after Matt Leinart…but no one’s complaining when the quarterback has time and the rushers have room to move.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags