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

New York Jets: A fullback could create new offensive avenues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Running game rises amidst disaster

Lost in the New York Jets’ most heartbreaking defeat in recent memory was the rise of a rushing tandem that united for 178 yards.

The number 100 holds a special place in the athletic realm. Olympic events are often contested in 100-meter durations. One of the most iconic photos in basketball history depicts Wilt Chamberlain holding a piece of paper with the numerals crudely scribbled on after he broke famously broke the century mark in scoring during a 1962 game in Hershey. The National Football League plastered it all over its fields, equipment, and merchandise as it turned the big one-double zero last season.

A 100-yard game from an NFL running back used to be a jaw-dropper, but the happening has become more commonplace as the league enters its second century. Entering Sunday’s Week 13 action, 60 such games had been recorded across the leagues. That follows the tally of 110 recorded during the last regular season.

None of those games, however, were recorded by New York Jets representatives. Ever since Isaiah Crowell turned himself into one of the most prominent one-hit wonders in New York Jets history with a franchise-best 219 yards in an October 2018 win over Denver, the Jets failed to reach the elusive mark. Le’Veon Bell was expected to prevent such a drought, but he never put up more than 87 yards in his season-plus in a New York uniform. Their failure to procure even the most basic tenet of offensive success has only added to the brutality of a losing streak that reached a dozen on Sunday afternoon, when the Jets fell to the Las Vegas Raiders by a 31-28 final in the most heartbreaking of fashions.

A late defensive lapse prevented the Jets (0-12) from breaking their losing streak, but one of their rushers was finally able to get back to the century-mark on the ground. Over two years after Crowell’s moment in the green spotlight, Ty Johnson got the Jets’ ground antics going with a 104-yard showing on 22 carries. Assisting Johnson was an equally strong effort from Josh Adams, who need only eight opportunities to reach 74 yards.

The unlikely tandem rose to the occasion when Frank Gore was forced to leave the game for a concussion evaluation. Rookie La’Micael Perine also missed Sunday’s proceedings after leaving last week’s visit to Los Angeles with an ankle ailment. With 28 more yards coming from Gore and quarterback Sam Darnold, the Jets earned 208 rushing yards on the afternoon, by far their best effort of the season.

“I think they did a great job, considering we were looking to rotate all three of those guys,” head coach Adam Gase said of Johnson, Adams, and Gore, per Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com. “(Johnson and Adams) did a really good job of going in there and being ready to go. We gave them some good holes and they hit ’em. It was good to have a guy get 100 yards rushing and to get 200 yards on the night. It wasn’t enough.”

With a rising number of injuries and a de facto sense of freedom to experiment with the postseason no longer a concern, the Jets have seen several reserves make significant contributions in their valiant efforts to earn a win. Prepped for Sunday work against Las Vegas with Perine out, Johnson and Adams took advantage of their newfound opportunities.

Johnson, 23 is in the midst of his second NFL season, joining the league as Detroit’s sixth-round draft pick out of Maryland. The Jets claimed him less than 24 hours after he was released by the Lions in October. While used sparingly, he notable earned a 34-yard gain in the Jets’ Week 6 visit to Miami, one of their rare positive outputs in a 24-0 defeat.

The rusher earned 28 vital yards on one of the Jets’ final drives, one that set up Darnold’s four-yard scoring run and the subsequent two-point tally earned by Denzel Mims. Johnson himself would help the Jets complete their comeback from a 24-13 deficit in the final quarter and score what probably should’ve been the game-winning touchdown, a one-yard punch partially set up by Javelin Guidry’s forced fumble.

“It was just waiting on the moment,” Johnson said in Lange’s report. “It’s just putting in the work and whenever the opportunity shows, just run with it. The coaches gave me an opportunity and that’s what I did with it.”

Alas for Johnson, his shining moment came in one of the more painful chapters in Jets history, lost in a defeat that pushed the Jets closer to imperfect infamy. Johnson’s disappointment was evident during his postgame statements.

“(100 yards is) cool and all. My family’s happy and a lot of people were messaging me this and that. But at the end of the day, we didn’t get the win. I wanted to get the win, that’s point-blank. It’s a blessing. I appreciate the guys giving me the opportunity, the guys on the line, out on the perimeter. I appreciate the hell out of them. I just wish at the end of that we came out with that W.”

Adams’ New York resume was slightly more accomplished in the lead-up to Sunday. The Notre Dame alum had previously worked with general manager Joe Douglas during the pair’s shared time with the Eagles in 2018. Philadelphia added Adams as an undrafted free agent and he wound up tallying 511 yards in his abbreviated season, 10th-best amongst rookie rushers.

The Jets brought Adams in during the 2019 season and he has been on and off the Jets’ active roster ever since. He too was struggled to gain a spot in the New York rotation but notably scored a touchdown in the Jets’ 2020 opener in Buffalo.

Adams earned several chunk yardage plays during Sunday’s proceedings, his longest carry going for 38 yards late in the first half. Alas, his efforts were likewise wasted, as the Jets were forced into a turnover on the very next play, run in a first-and-goal situation. New York would later cash in on Adams’ efforts at the onset of the fourth quarter, when he went 18 yards on the first play from scrimmage en route to Darnold’s score (his second of the season, tying him for the team lead with Perine).

The theme of free research and development may continue to be the one thing the Jets have left to play four as they mercifully enter the final quarter of this cursed slate. Such a stretch begins next Sunday in Seattle (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Even as the Jets seem destined to choose passing sensations Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields with the top overall pick come April, the first dozen games have shown that the team is far from a quick quarterback fix to return to NFL relevancy. Their post-Bell rushing game will no doubt be scrutinized, especially with Perine potentially returning at some point in this stretch. While the Jets may be reluctant to spend a part of their sizable offseason budget (currently at just over $82 million in cap space) on another running back after the Bell departure, they’ll possibly look to upgrade with a veteran like Mike Davis or Phillip Lindsay to move forward.

Thus, Johnson and Adams could potentially have a shot to show the Jets that their rushing solutions may lie within and that they might be able to trim their offseason shopping list. The situation could wind up falling from their control…the current coaching staff has shown an uncanny loyalty to a 37-year old Gore…but their ongoing antics should give fans a reason to keep an eye on whatever remains in this season long-forsaken by football deities.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Resurgent rushers looking to continue momentum building

Having reached triple digits in three of the last five games, Buffalo Bills rushers are ready to roll into December.

The glory days of the Buffalo Bills have long been defined by the antics of a strong game, more or less emulating the streaking buffalo that has graced their helmets since 1974. Wray Carlton and Cookie Gilchrist led the way during their AFL championship days, famously followed by O.J. Simpson, who sat in second place on the NFL’s all-time rushing upon his retirement. Thurman Thomas and Kenneth Davis then became reliable presciences during the AFC title streak. Even the dark times provided relief through the legs of Joe Cribbs, Fred Jackson, Travis Henry, and Willis McGahee.

As the Bills seek to form a new consistent brand of glory days, the run game is rising to the occasion.

Buffalo (8-3) enters their most hopeful December yet, one where they’re well on pace to earn their first division title since 1995. The team may be new to the AFC penthouse, but they’re well aware that they’ll have to be clicking on all cylinders to make some postseason noise and officially put the league on notice. Head coach Sean McDermott spoke about it in the earlier stages of the fall.

“Most coaches would say they want to hit their stride in November, December, when the leaves are coming off the trees,” McDermott said, per Mary Margaret Johnson of WIVB on November 3. “Overall, at the end of the day, you’re trying to win one game. Rosters change week to week, lineups change week to week, challenges normally come, and with COVID, we’re trying to find one week wins and do the best you can to put the best lineup out there.”

One area where the Bills are starting to peak is the aforementioned run game.

Exciting as the idea of Josh Allen torching opponents with both his arms and feet may be, Buffalo sought to get their run game rolling. The unit appeared to be well set for the future with Devin Singletary set to return after a strong rookie season (775 yards, fourth amongst first-year rushers). Buffalo would also replace the Jets-bound Frank Gore by drafting Utah’s Zack Moss in the third round of the 2020 draft proceedings. Bills general manager Brandon Beane was hopeful was Singletary’s finesse and and Moss’ physicality would be the next step forward for an offense on the rise.

“Devin has that shiftiness. Zack’s going to be more of that banging in there,” Beane said after the draft, per Alex Brasky of The Daily News (Batavia). “He’s going to lower that shoulder and try to, a little bit like Frank did at an older age for us. I see that role.”

But with the blocking names in front of them changing more than those on the North Park Theater’s marquee, the Bills rushing attack had struggled in the early going. The team managed to get off to a strong start, but a challenging stretch, when the Bills lost two of three in October, coincided with the run game working on a streak of earning less than 100 yards.

The display was particularly scary during an October 19 loss to Kansas City, one of the two teams ahead of the Bills for AFC supremacy. As Clyde Edwards-Helaire broke loose for 161 yards, the Bills mustered only 84 on the ground as a team. Singletary struggled to the tune of 32 yards on 10 carries in defeat.

Keeping the pace of a strong rookie season proved to be a challenge for Singletary. He struggled to reach the 300-yard mark over his first seven games, averaging less than four yards a carry. He noted the big plays that came naturally in his debut failed to resurface in modern times.

“Making big plays, creating big plays. We haven’t been able to do that yet,” the struggling sophomore Singletary said after the game, per Jourdon LaBarber & Dante Lasting of BuffaloBills.com. “We’ve got to find a way to get that going.”

Singletary’s words, however, proved prophetic and he found a way to get things rolling again.

Two weeks after the Chiefs’ visit, the Bills battled the New England Patriots, often seen as a weekend for plenty of Western New York fans to skip due to an infamous streak of futility against the AFC East monopoly-holders. Singletary, helping co-author a new narrative in Orchard Park, came up big with a team-best 86 yards on 14 carries, 59 of that tally coming in the second half. Assistance came in the form of Moss, who tallied 81 yards on an equal number of carries, and he also punched in his first NFL touchdowns. They wound up being the difference in the 24-21 Buffalo victory.

“This is probably the most I felt like myself just from everything from top to bottom,” Moss remarked afterwards, per Jenna Callari of WKBW. “I was just happy I was able to come out and be ready to go in a game like this. I was really comfortable today and want to build off that going into the rest of the year.”

As the Buffalo run game continues to surge forward, they continue to fulfill Singletary’s prophecy. With a more balanced offense, the Bills are well positioned to make their first legitimate postseason run. That was on display during their most recent win, a game where three turnovers could’ve threatened to destroy what they were building.

Sunday’s 27-17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers to wrap up the November slate could’ve been the type of trap game that caused Buffalo to fly off the rails, a game that might’ve left them uncomfortably sharing the top spot in the AFC East with Miami. But a strong attack from the run game helped them finish things off. There were no antics from Allen or Stefon Diggs necessary to close out the win. Even if Allen tallied a score on the ground, it was the running that kept things rolling, with Singletary and Moss uniting for 141 yards. Their magnum opus came on the final drive, when Moss opened things up with a 31-yard gain, followed by a 24-yard tally from Singletary that set Tyler Bass for a de facto game-winning field goal from 43 yards way.

Things weren’t fully perfect just yet. A lost Singletary fumble led to a Los Angeles field goal. Moss was penalized 15 yards for taunting. But the Bills made sure that their offensive fate goes far beyond Allen. The quarterback (18-of-24, 157 yards, 2 total touchdowns, 1 INT) expressed his gratitude and hope for more after the game in Heather Prusak’s report for WIVB.

“Our guys did a great job, Zack and (Moss) carried the ball extremely well, they ran hard,” Allen said. “When my number’s called I gotta make some plays too but our guys did a good job blocking up front and you put the ball in your backs’ hands and let them do things and they were great today.”

Singletary explained that the success against the Chargers partially stemmed from an increased emphasis on the rushing attack in practice that week, mentioning that the team ran “an extra drill” leading into LA week.

“It wasn’t even full speed, it was kind of like half speed but just seeing the guys get to their landmark,” Singletary said in Prusak’s report, mentioning how it helped the Bills prevaild in a physical game. “It helps us get to our landmark it just kind of helps the offensive line and the running backs get a feel for each other and it showed today.”

Singletary and Moss will look to carry on momentum in their next game on Monday night, as they battle the San Francisco 49ers in Glendale, Arizona (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Offensive expectations for upcoming season

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

Last season was riddled with ups-and-downs, breaking news and even mono. Through it all, the New York Jets managed to finish 7-9, which was better than most expected. In Adam Gase‘s second season, and Sam Darnold’s third, the offense should be able to improve. After all, they can’t go anywhere but up after finishing with the last-ranked total offense last season. Let’s take a look at what should be expected from each offensive position group this upcoming campaign:

 

Quarterback

Even though the team finished with a losing record at 7-9, Sam Darnold was 7-6 as a starter. That’s far better than his 4-12 record as a rookie. He also increased his touchdown amount from 17 to 19 and threw two fewer interceptions, down from 15 to 13. Those aren’t major improvements but they’re improvements nonetheless. That’s a good sign, especially since the improvements were with a new head coach and a somewhat thin supporting cast.

Darnold’s final stat line from last season was 3,024 yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 13 games. If he didn’t miss games due to mono, there’s no doubt that he would’ve had over 20 touchdowns. Barring any injuries or illnesses this upcoming season, fans should expect to see Darnold throw over 20-25 touchdowns and move toward 4,000 yards. With recent signee Joe Flacco hopefully mentoring and improvements to surrounding playmaking positions, Darnold should take a nice leap for the Jets.

 

Running Back

Last offseason’s signing of Le’Veon Bell sparked a lot of excitement heading into the season. The former All-Pro running back was one of the biggest names in free agency, if not the biggest. He was expected to be a huge part of the offense and, well, that wasn’t necessarily the case. Two seasons removed from 1,291 rushing yards, 655 receiving yards and 11 total touchdowns, Bell posted the second-fewest total yards of his career. In 15 games, he totaled 789 rushing yards, 461 receiving yards and just 4 total touchdowns. With more familiarity and an improved offensive line, Bell should get back to around 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards. He probably won’t be posting numbers similar to his career-best, but he should post better numbers.

Fourth-round pick Lamical Perine and free-agent signee Frank Gore should be able to provide situational help for the run game. Gore isn’t nearly what he once was but can still provide spot-help if needed. He shouldn’t be expected to surpass 400, or maybe, even 300 yards this season since his usage will be lessened. He could see time as a late-down option, such as on third-and-one scenarios, for example.

Perine is an interesting player because he could be sprinkled into different scenarios like Bilal Powell was used to. Perine can run between the tackles but can also provide some assistance in the passing game. I expect Perine to see more field time than Frank Gore simply because of his limited wear-and-tear.

 

Wide Receiver

Robby Anderson was one of the top options from last season, but he is now in Carolina. I say “top option” here with a grain of salt because he posted just 52 receptions for 779 yards and 5 touchdowns across all 16 games. Sure, that is not all on him, but those numbers should be higher for one of the better options on the outside. I believe those numbers could easily be replicated by second-round pick Denzel Mims. The Baylor product should be expected to become a major part of the passing attack from the get-go. His speed, deep ball tracking ability and reliability in college should allow Darnold to rely on him from the beginning. He should be expected to grab at least 50 receptions for around 750-800 yards, at least.

Jamison Crowder posted solid numbers in his first season with Gang Green. He totaled 78 receptions for 833 yards and 6 touchdowns while working mostly from the slot. Aside from his playmaking ability with the ball in his hands, Crowder provided last-resort help for Darnold while he was under duress. Crowder should post similar numbers, though possibly with a slight decrease, due to numerous additions.

Free-agent signee Breshad Perriman was brought in to replace Robby Anderson. Perriman, in 14 games, posted career-highs with 36 receptions, 645 yards and 6 touchdowns last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those numbers definitely don’t jump off the page but he was not brought in with the expectations of a 1,000-yard receiver. He’s a guy who could see a slight jump in numbers and have between 700-750 yards.

Other additions, such as Josh Doctson, could provide fill-in assistance in small doses but shouldn’t be expected to drastically improve. Doctson is somewhat of a mystery, in terms of production, and will most likely be used sparingly. Regardless, expect Mims, Crowder and Perriman to be the top options, maybe in that order. The receiving group will be working collectively to produce for New York.

Tight End

The tight end position should be controlled by Ryan Griffin and Chris Herndon throughout the season. Griffin didn’t have spectacular numbers, but when used, he provided much needed receiving help. He totaled 34 receptions for 320 yards and 5 touchdowns on his way to a new three-year, $10.8 million contract. Griffin shouldn’t be expected to drastically improve in production and should most likely produce similar numbers, especially if Herndon plays.

Chris Hernon has shown some flashes of playmaking ability while on the field. However, he played in just one game last season due to a suspension and injuries. He has more upside as a playmaker than Griffin but needs to stay on the field. If he ends up staying on the field, he should be expected to post similar numbers to Griffin. He may exceed him a little, potentially closer to 400 yards. He’s capable of more, but as we’ve seen throughout the years, tight end isn’t a high usage position for this offense.

 

Offensive Line

The Jets have been towards the bottom in offensive line rankings for some time. It has been a position group that has needed to be revamped and it may have finally happened. Connor McGovern was brought in to become the new starting center after starting all 16 games for Denver last season. The team also signed tackle George Fant and guard Alex Lewis. Perhaps the biggest addition though, in both ability and size, is the 6-foot-7, 364-pound tackle Mekhi Becton. He was selected with pick 11 in the draft and helps solidify the left side of the line.

The offensive line shouldn’t be expected to become one of the top lines in the league but could finish as a middle-of-the-pack unit. If that happens, that could cause a major improvement for the whole offense. Le’Veon Bell could run more patiently, which he likes, and Sam Darnold would have more time to go through his progressions. This new starting offensive line should be improved and should be held to higher expectations than fans have been used to.

Bottom Line

With all of the additions to the offense, the Jets should make games more exciting and should be expected to put more pressure on opposing defenses. They probably won’t be a top-10 offense this upcoming season, but fans should expect the team to exceed their average of 17.3 points-per-game last season.

New York Giants: What Should We Expect From Jason Garrett On Offense?

New York Giants, Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

The New York Giants are revamping their offensive scheme. After two years with head coach Pat Shurmur running the offense, New York is taking a different approach in 2020. The Gmen hired Joe Judge as their next head coach and he assembled a phenomenal coaching staff. Judge made a splash on offense, hiring former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as the team’s next offensive coordinator.

In a media conference call yesterday, Joe Judge stated that the Giants’ 2020 offense will have “no carryover in any way shape or form.” The offense will be “similarly based” on what Jason Garrett ran in Dallas. So what exactly will that offense look like?

Jason Garrett’s Air Coryell Offense

Jason Garrett will be bringing the Air Coryell offense over to the Giants. Here is how the Air Coryell offense is defined:

“Named after Don Coryell, the head coach of the San Diego Chargers during the 1978-86 seasons, Air Coryell is designed to spread out a defense vertically as opposed to horizontally, like the West Coast Offense.” – via Sports Illustrated.

The Passing Game

With the goal being to stretch the defense vertically, there will be an emphasis placed on speed. Not only physical speed amongst the playmakers, but mental speed for quarterback Daniel Jones. This offensive scheme is based on timing. This offense “relies on building timing patterns into the offense where the quarterback must be able to time his throws to connect with a receiver at a designated spot within the route.”

With that being said, it is crucial that Jones and his receivers are on the same page. Daniel will need to get the ball out of his hands quickly and he will need to find his receivers on time. Anticipation will be vital to Jones’s success in 2020.

“With Garret calling plays, the Cowboys passing offense was never ranked lower than 9th in yards per game or 11th in yards per play, including two top five finishes in both categories. The rushing offense was top ten in yards per play four times.” –via Giants.com

The Giants will line up in 11-personnel a lot less now. Shurmur’s offense stuck to the standard 11-personnel, running that set on 74% of their snaps last season. Garrett’s Cowboys lined up with one running back and one tight end on 67% of their offensive plays. Garrett’s offense places an emphasis on the utilization of the tight end, so expect to see more 12-personnel in 2020. Giants fans are well aware of how much Garrett loved to use Jason Witten in Dallas. Witten, as the long-time tight end of the Cowboys, received 80 or more targets every year he played under Garrett, including multiple 120+ target seasons. Evan Engram will inevitably see his role expand with Garrett in town.

Of course, much of Dallas’s offensive success can be attributed to their proficient offensive line. The Giants upgraded their front line in the 2020 NFL Draft and should see the unit improve drastically in 2020 under Marc Colombo. Daniel Jones will have more time in the pocket and better protection, allowing him to anticipate his throws and deliver them on time.

The Running Game

Since 2014, Dallas offenses have used a variety of run schemes, with outside and inside zone the most frequent most seasons. They also mix in man and power schemes (according to Pro Football Focus, via Giants.com). But the Cowboys were not stuck in their ways running the football. The scheme was flexible, depending on who the running back was. For example, when Demarco Murray was the team’s rusher, the scheme emphasized outside zone to take advantage of Murray’s shiftiness and tackle-breaking ability. With Ezekiel Elliot, however, the offense has featured more inside zone, adapting to Elliot’s downhill playstyle.

Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys ran for 2,153 yards last season on 4.8 yards per attempt with 18 rushing touchdowns. The team has rushed for over 1,900 yards in every season since 2016. In 2015 they were 10 yards short of that mark but were coming off of an explosive 2,354 rushings yards in 2014.

So, to summarize, Jason Garrett loves to run the football. Saquon Barkley should see his production increase after an injury-plagued 2019 season. A healthy Saquon Barkley behind an improved offensive line in Jason Garrett’s offense is a recipe for great success in 2020.

The Dallas Cowboys’ offense led the NFL in yards per game in 2019. He might have had his flaws as a head coach, but Jason Garrett is an excellent offensive coordinator. He will significantly upgrade the Giants’ offense and incorporate a scheme in which Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones can thrive.

The New York Jets could pursue Pro Bowl offensive guard Larry Warford

New York Jets, Larry Warford

You probably read that headline and thought, “Sheesh, how many more offensive linemen can this team sign?”. Quite frankly, Joe Douglas has spent loads of resources between draft picks and money towards fixing the offensive line. Although he’s done a great job, the New York Jets could add another offensive lineman who would turn the line into an above-average line. That lineman is the newly released 3-time pro bowler, Larry Warford.

Who is Larry Warford?

Larry Warford was a third-round pick by the New Orleans Saints during the 2013 draft. At 28 years old, Warford has started on the Saints offensive line since his inception into the NFL. He’s only missed a handful of games in that time, and he’s received three Pro Bowl nods in the last three years. Warford is a durable and talented guard. Had he hit the market at the start of free agency, he’d have been a hot commodity. Now, with the addition of Saints’ first-rounder Cesar Ruiz to pair with their other young offensive linemen, the Saints felt that Warford and his $12.9 million dollar cap hit (2nd highest next to Drew Brees) were not worth it anymore. Warford now faces a likely extensive market.

The New York Jets Should Target Him

As I previously mentioned, although the Jets overhauled their offensive line, you never say no to a Pro Bowler. The tackles and center position may be solidified, and the Jets may have established competition at guard, but Warford is an instant game-changer. His durability and leadership would make him an asset. If you release Brian Winters and allow Alex Lewis, Cameron Clark, and Greg Van Roten to compete for the other guard spot, then Warford can be a starter on the line.

The fact is, the Jets need to continue to improve and establish completion at a position that is still not all the way improved. Adding a Pro Bowler in his prime would take the Jets’ offensive line to another level.

XFL 2020: New York Guardians Season Evaluation

New York Guardians

The New York Guardians of the remastered XFL debuted on February 9, 2020, vs the Tampa Bay Vipers. They won their inaugural game 23-3. Ever since then they have been a mixed bag.

The next two weeks they lost horribly to the DC Defenders and the St. Louis Battlehawks by blowouts. Many fans started to feel like it was a tradition to lose in New York (New Jersey) football since the New York Giants and New York Jets have not had a winning season in a while.

Anyway, since Luis Perez had taken over for Matt McGloin as the starting quarterback, their record improved to 3-2. That was until the coronavirus outbreak spread and caused multiple sports leagues to suspend their seasons, including the XFL.  Here’s the Guardians’ 2020 season in review:

Offense

The offense at times looked great when it came to scoring points, but stale on the stat sheet. The first week the Guardians won against the Tampa Bay Vipers 23-3. What may have looked like a 20-pt deficit should have been a lot closer. That game Matt McGloin had an average game, only passing for one touchdown and completing just over 50% of his passes.

McGloin’s play dropped against the Defenders in a blowout 27-0 loss. He threw 2 interceptions as the running game did not get much accomplished. The total offense totaled 137 yards. McGloin during the game and after criticized the offensive gameplan.

The offense improved when it came to the yards vs the Battlehawks, but only 9 points showed up on the scoreboard. As Matt McGloin got injured, backups Luis Perez and Marquise Williams saw some playing time.

Perez replaced the injured McGloin the next week and the offense saw an improvement. Darius Victor rushed for a season-high 82 yards, as Perez completed 69% of his passes and threw a touchdown. The Guardians won a nailbiter 17-14.

The offense saw their best game vs the Renegades in Week 5, scoring 23 points (7 on the pick-six by Ryan Mueller) in a 30-12 win. Though intercepted once, Perez still guided the offense to a much-needed win on the road. The Guardians totaled 373 yards that game.

The offense was 7th in total offensive yards, 5th in average rush yards, 6th in average passing yards and last in points for and average points for.

Defense

The defense was best known for its playmaking abilities at certain times this season. The defense also was known for giving up a lot of yards.

Week 1 vs Tampa Bay was a prime example of that. The Guardians only gave up 3 points but gave up 394 yards.  Bryce Jones and Aaron Soh picking off Aaron Murray twice. Aaron Murray and backup Quinton Flowers combined to pass for 244 yards. The rush defense struggled mightly giving up 150 yards.

The defense gave up fewer total yards the following week but gave up more points in a 27-0 loss to the DC Defenders. Cardale Jones had a field day, as he passed for 264 yards. The running game did better and only surrendered 108 yards.

The pass defense limited Jordan Ta’amu to only 117 yards the next week vs the Battlehawks. The run defense took a hit and gave up 156 yards. The final result was a 29-9 loss.

The defense saw little improvement vs Josh Johnson the next week in a nailbiting 17-14 victory. Josh Johnson made the pass defense bleed by passing for 325 yards (the most given up by the Guardians in 2020). The run defense only allowed 108 yards on the ground between Johnson, Elijah Hood, Dujuan Harris, and Larry Rose.

Next week, they had their best game. The run defense allowed a season-low 56 rushing yards and the pass defense held Philip Nelson to 206 passing yards. Not to mention that defensive tackle Toby Johnson and linebacker Ryan Mueller picked him off.

The Guardians’ defense finished the season 6th in yards allowed per game, 2nd in sacks, 4th in takeaways, 2nd in points against and 2nd in average points against. Defensive tackle Cavon Walker led the XFL with 4.5 sacks.

Analysis

Going into next year, the New York Guardians will have to improve on both sides of the field.

The offense will have to work towards thriving more in the passing game and keep their current run production game going. With an offensive genius like Kevin Gilbride as the head coach, the offense definitely underperformed.

The defense will have to work on allowing fewer yards per game, whether the opposing run game or the passing game gets the bigger chunk of yards. They do create a lot of pressures, which turn into sacks, and force the opponent to turn over the football.

The Guardians’ players will have extra time to prepare for next season, so let’s see if they take advantage of it.

New York Jets Mock Draft 1.0 Rounds 1-3

The Jets officially locked down their position for the 2020 draft. They could have a compensatory pick added if the Giants bring back Leonard Williams but for the time being, this is where they’ll pick. Using The Draft Network Mock Draft Simulator and taking the best players at each position based on needs, potential, and more here is an early projection of what the Jets draft could look like.

Round 1 Pick 11: CeeDee Lamb WR Oklahoma

Robby Anderson seems inclined to look for the best possible destination to play both competitive football and get paid around $10 million a year. It remains to be seen whether or not the Jets will bring him back next year. With or without him on the roster, CeeDee Lamb would be an excellent addition. In this scenario, all three premier offensive line prospects were off the board. Lamb was the most talented player available and he projects to be a Deandre Hopkins Esque wideout at the next level. His route running could be improved but he’s a dynamic number one receiver type who can stretch the field and provide significant YAC potential with every catch. Adding Lamb would be an excellent weapon in Darnold’s arsenal for the future.

Round 2 Pick 48: Mekhi Becton OT Louisville

Adding Becton, especially in the second round would be a STEAL. Becton is a 6’7 369-pound beast who could immediately provide an upgrade at left tackle. Becton has the potential to be a Star left tackle who can produce in a big way at the next level. His size makes him an excellent pass protector and his mauling style of blocking makes him a beast in the run game. Adding Becton would be the type of move that would immediately gain Joe Douglas a lot of fans.

Round 3 Pick 68: Zack Baun EDGE Wisconsin

Zack Baun can be the type of piece that Gregg Williams would have a lot of fun with. He plays with a lot of heart and has a very high football IQ. He’s a smart pass rusher and a damn good one. He had 12.5 sacks last year for Wisconsin and deserves significant Draft attention. Baun is not a perfect player but he’s the kind of player with the potential to be a captain of the defense in the future and play a TJ Watt style role in the defense. Baun would be a great pick for the Jets at 68 and would immediately slot in as a rotational pass rusher.

Round 3 Pick 78: Najee Harris RB Alabama

If Lev Bell is still in the picture come April the Jets may be reluctant to take a half back. However, I don’t foresee Bell being a Jet come April. Najee Harris is the next good running back churned out of a school that’s produced so many talented backs over the past few years. He’s never been a lead back and if Bell is still around he would be a good complementary back. If he is the lead back then he will need to grow into the role over time and develop as a pass-catcher. Overall though he’s a talented running back with good size. He reminds me of Matt Forte and if he can be any bit as good as him then the Jets will have found themselves a nice weapon for Sam Darnold.

Summary of Rounds 1-3

The key point of the first three rounds was getting protection and weaponry for Darnold that will grow with him as well as adding an edge rusher with a lot of potential at the next level.

New York Jets: Matt Rhule, What Could Have Been

NEW YORK JETSMatt Rhule has a storied coaching career with experience galore. In 2013 that earned him the job as the head coach of Temple. Although there was familiarity with the team (he had coached there in various positions from 2006-2011) it was a new program from the one he left behind.

In the one year absence where he was an assistant offensive line coach for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, Temple was going through a drastic change. They just lost another head coach and the culture was in disarray. Matt Rhule was named the head coach and in his first season, they had a 2-10 record and were 1-7 in AAC play. He was determined to show progress in year 2. He did just that, the team finished the season with the Temple Owls holding a grasp on 6th in the AAC and a 6-6 record with a 4-4 record in AAC play. His third year was his “prove it” year, he had shown progress but now it had to be sustainable. Well, they went above and beyond in the next two seasons. They had a combined record of 20-8 over the two-year span, a 14-2 record in AAC play over the span and two conference championship appearances and one conference title. Matt Rhule built a successful program so it was time to look for what was next.

In lieu of some misconduct at the university, I don’t want to get into, the football program was in a disastrous state. The team needed to be led out of the dark and in came Matt Rhule. Matt started his first season with Baylor with a team full of guys he hadn’t even gotten a lot of time to look at. No cream of the crop guys, just guys who loved the game. They struggled mightily early with a 1-11 record in his first season as the head coach. They showed toughness and resilience. This made him an attractive head coaching interview and the Colts gave him a shot but ultimately Waco would remain his home. That paid off last season with a 7-6 record and a Texas Bowl appearance, which they won. Matt Rhule then received Jets interviews and was practically handed the job but only with the agreement that the front office got to pick his staff. Rhule ultimately returned to Waco to continue coaching the Baylor Bears. Gase was hired and people seemed satisfied. Matt Rhule has led the Baylor Bears to a 9-1 record at this point. Although they lost a heartbreaker to the Sooners the other night, this team is set up for a potential New Year Six Bowl game still. That’s a drastic revitalization of a program with no clear direction at all.

That level of revitalization is exactly what the New York Jets could have used. No matter how Adam Gase continues to do with the Jets, I believe Matt Rhule is going to be an excellent head coach in the NFL at some point and I think deep down the Jets may think about what could’ve been.