UPDATE: New York Jets cut DL Henry Anderson

The New York Jets have released defensive lineman Henry Anderson. Anderson was brought over in a deal with the Indianapolis Colts just 3 years ago. The deal was for a 7th round pick, and it ultimately lead to success in his first season with the Jets. Anderson put up 7.0 sacks, 7 TFL ‘s, and 35 overall tackles. This prompted the former front office to offer him a three-year, $25.2 million dollar extension. The deal has been an utter failure.

Anderson’s Struggles

in the past two seasons, Anderson has combined to put up a measly 1.5 sacks, 7 TFL ‘s, and only 77 tackles. Anderson has consistently underperformed, and for the money he was worth, he failed to live up to expectations as a whole, only starting 22 of 32 of games since resigning.

The guaranteed money blocked the Jets from cutting him last offseason and allocating resources elsewhere, now with the availability to free much more cap, the team has released him, freeing up $8.2 million.

The Jets have a plethora of young and talented defensive linemen behind him with Quinnen Williams, John Franklin Myers, Foley Fatukasi, and Nathan Shepherd, who will all see increased playing time now. Anderson is older and less likely to fit the Saleh/Ulbrich defense, making him an easy cap casualty. The move also pushes the Jets closer to the Jaguars for the most cap space in the league as they look to reconstruct the roster this offseason. As for Anderson, he hits the open market, and for a team that still sees potential in the veteran, he could be a tempting depth option. 

New York Jets expected to franchise tag S Marcus Maye (Report)

The New York Jets are expected to use their tag on the safety Maye, who enjoyed a breakout season after Jamal Adams’ departure.

Per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, the New York Jets will use their franchise tag on Marcus Maye when the 14-day period opens on Tuesday. Maye, who turns 28 in March, enjoyed a breakout season that led to team MVP honors after the tumultuous departure of fellow safety, 2017 draftee, and SEC alum Jamal Adams via trade.

The placing of the franchise tag will put Maybe in the $10-11 million range for a single season. New York can afford such a deal while going after longer-term endeavors, as they currently have the second-highest cap space in football (just under $68 million). Maye earned 88 tackles, 11 pass breakups, two sacks, and two interceptions, all of which were good for career-bests. He’s an ideal candidate for the franchise tag as the Jets’ excess cap space will afford them a one-year deal that likely keeps Maye satisfied and gives them a year to see whether he fits in Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s defensive plans.

Saleh had some positive words for Maye upon accepting the Jets’ head coaching job in January.

“I know (general manager Joe Douglas) holds him in very high regard,” Saleh said, per notes provided by the Jets. “I know he’s got a tremendous reputation in the locker room and so being able to get on the tape and just study him and see how he fits and where. From my understanding, he’s a very, very, very talented young man. And within our scheme, safeties are, obviously, they’re important to everybody, but with how we do things, it sounds like he’d be a very versatile piece.”

Vacchiano’s report states that a franchise tag also makes sense for Maye on a personal level, as it could be one of the better deals he gets with the NFL’s salary cap expected to shrink by about $13 million in the wake of the ongoing health crisis.

“If you’re a guy like Marcus, not in the top tier, you might not find that big contract this year,” an NFL agent told SNY. “You might have to take a one-year deal, bet on yourself, and take your shot again next year. That’s the same as getting the franchise tag, only the tag is probably worth more.”

The tag period begins on Tuesday and will run through March 9, with free agent signings set to begin on March 17.

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 positional preview 2021: Defensive line

The rise of Quinnen Williams and some diamonds in the rough has made the defensive line a rare secure spot on the New York Jets’ roster.

The Position: Defensive Line
On the Roster: Quinnen Williams, Henry Anderson, Folorunso Fatukasi, John Franklin-Myers, Kyle Phillips Bryce Huff, Nathan Shepherd, Jabari Zuniga, Tanzel Smart
Free Agents: Trevon Coley
Reserve/Future: N/A

As if the New York Jets didn’t have enough problems on their homefront, the 2020 season served as a not-so-friendly reminder that they’re going to have to deal with Josh Allen for a long, long time. Cam Newton and Tua Tagovailoa didn’t live up to the hype in their AFC East debuts, but if Deshaun Watson’s not coming to the Jets, he might well take his talents to South Beach (if his Houston employers can be convinced to bargain, that is). New England struggled with Newton but they enjoyed a rushing breakout with Damien Harris and will welcome back a healthy Sony Michel come next season.

Simply put, the Jets need to make sure their first line of defense is fortified moving forward. Despite their endless struggles in 2020, the unit became one of the Jets’ most reliable areas.

Quinnen Williams, for example, was one of the most pleasant surprises in football, recovering from a tough rookie year to become one of the league’s most dominant interior linemen (55 tackles, 14 knockdowns, 10 TFL, 7 sacks). Folorunso “Foley” Fatukasi and Henry Anderson each became veteran breakouts, while John Franklin-Myers became a reliable depth option. While each dealt with injuries, the Jets have high hopes for youngsters Kyle Phillips and Jabari Zuniga. In an uncannily welcome situation, the unit has only one potential departure through free agency (Trevon Coley), though that doesn’t account for potential cap departures like Anderson ($8 million).

Adding to the defensive line’s importance is new head coach Robert Saleh’s dedication to the 4-3 defense. The Jets haven’t run such a formation on a consistent basis since Bill Parcells and Herm Edwards helped ring in the new millennium.

Saleh expects Williams to be the headliner of his unit moving forward. During Saleh’s time in the Bay Area, the 49ers extensively scouted Williams when they picked right before the Jets in the 2019 draft. San Francisco eventually took Nick Bosa but Williams left an impression on his new coach.

“With regards to (Williams) his mindset, his athleticism, his power, his love for football, I’m really, really excited to see him in our system, especially up front with the way we design with that attack style,” Saleh said, per team report Jack Bell. “He’s a game-wrecker. He’s somebody you have to game plan against to keep him at bay, and, obviously, it gives the other 10 guys an opportunity to excel just because of the focus that he’s going to garner.”

Free-Agents-to-be

DT Trevon Coley

Coley was scooped off Arizona’s waiver wire in December and didn’t appear in a game in a Jets uniform. He tallied 14 tackles and a sack over six games with the Cardinals this season. The Jets were his seventh team since entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of FAU in 2016.

Will They Draft?

Adding help to the defensive line is low on the Jets’ priority list for the time being, though the possibility could be raised if they move Anderson through a release or trade. If they had their usual output of picks, they’d probably focus beyond the front four, but they could potentially explore a mid-tier option like Janarius Robinson from Florida State or the versatile Malcolm Koonce from Buffalo. If they want to replenish the interior, they could look at Williams’ Tuscaloosa successor Christian Barmore, though he would likely require a pick over the first two days. 

Veteran Possibilities 

DE Kerry Hyder, San Francisco

Hyder is one of many San Francisco free agents that should expect a call from the Jets. He originally joined the Jets as an undrafted rookie out of Texas Tech in 2014 before latching on with Detroit and Dallas prior to his San Francisco stint. After Solomon Thomas was lost for the year, Hyder put up a career-best 8.5 sacks, leading the team. He may not be a household name, but he would provide an instant boost to the Jets’ edge efforts.

DE Bruce Irvin, Seattle

The Jets’ defensive line has potential, they just need some guidance, a push in the right direction. Irvin was set to somewhat fulfill that role by returning to the Seahawks, where he worked with Saleh during his first two NFL seasons as a 2012 first-round choice. A torn ACL limited him to only two games, but, at the right price, he can be a veteran mentor that happens to know what it’s like to work in a Saleh system.

DT Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Atlanta 

Having previously worked with Jeff Ulbrich, the Jets’ new defensive coordinator who held the same title in Atlanta, the undrafted sophomore from UCLA enjoyed a breakout season of sorts. He partook in all 16 games and picked up 31 tackles while also recovering three fumbles. If the Jets are looking for an interior depth option that knows what to expect from Ulbrich’s schemes, Tuioti-Mariner would be the way to go.

Outlook

In the grand scheme of things, the front four is one of the rare areas where the Jets don’t have to make too many adjustments. Yet, when you win two games in an NFL season, help from the outside would be welcome up and down the roster. If the Jets opt to let veterans like Anderson and Fatukasi go to earn additional cap space, only then would they perhaps become truly active. Still, with a new regime, namely Saleh and Ulbrich, coming in, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add a familiar face or two to potentially create a smoother transition.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Report: New York Jets to retain Brant Boyer as ST coordinator

New York Jets

Boyer, who joined the New York Jets in 2016, is currently the only holdover from both the Adam Gase and Todd Bowles eras.

Per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the New York Jets will keep Brant Boyer as their special teams coordinator under head coach Robert Saleh. Boyer, 49, is set to survive the purgings of both Todd Bowles and Adam Gase’s staffs.

The Arizona alum entered coaching in 2012, nearly a decade after his playing career ended. Boyer was a sixth-round choice of the Miami Dolphins in 1994 and played 10 seasons, a majority with Jacksonville (1995-2000). He previously served as a special teams assistant in Indianapolis (2012-15).

Under Boyer’s watch, the Jets sent two specialists to the Pro Bowl during the 2018 season (kicker Jason Myers and returner Andre Roberts). Since Roberts’ departure for Buffalo, Boyer has placed returners in the top 10 in average runback. Braxton Berrios was second in average punt return in 2019 (11.4) while midseason acquisition Corey Ballentine was seventh in kicks this past season (24.0). Notably, defensive lineman Henry Anderson also blocked three kicks over three straight games during the 2018 campaign.

“He understands and trusts us to get ready for Sunday,” Myers said of Boyer during the 2018 season. “In our room, he has a lot of trust for us. It puts you in a good mindset to go out there and just kick the way you want to kick on Sundays.”

“He expects the best out of us every day. He demands a lot, and he cares about each as people as well, off the field,” longer snapper Thomas Hennessy added in that same timeframe. “To have a coach like that, who wants excellence on the field and cares about you as a person off the field, makes you want to play that much for the coach.”

Saleh has continued to fill out the assistants on his staff since his hiring on January 14. During his opening statements last week, Saleh confirmed that fellow former San Francisco compatriot Mike LaFleur would serve as the team’s offensive coordinator while ex-Atlanta assistant Jeff Ulbrich would take over the defense. Ulbrich’s duties will include defensive playcalling.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Report: Deshaun Watson’s top choice is the New York Jets

A report from the Miami Herald has indicated that the outgoing Texan’s destination of choice would be the New York Jets.

According to a report from Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Deshaun Watson’s seeking an AFC East destination when his move from the Houston Texans inevitably comes. Watson’s first choice is reportedly the New York Jets, with the Miami Dolphins appearing in the runner-up slot.

Salguero’s report claims that Watson prefers New York over Miami because of the hiring of Robert Saleh as head coach. A separate report from Mike Florio of ProFootbalTalk claimed that Watson wanted the Texans to interview Saleh for their own head coaching vacancy but that Houston management wasn’t interested. Jim Caldwell and former Jets quarterback Josh McCown have been more recently linked to the search for Bill O’Brien’s replacement, but the refusal to bring Saleh in has only made the relationship between Watson and the Texans even icier. Noted Saleh celebrant Richard Sherman encouraged Watson to go to the Jets on Cris Collinsworth’s podcast, advising him to get out of Houston “as quickly as possible”. Watson has a no-trade clause in his contract.

Both the Jets and Dolphins own high picks in the upcoming NFL Draft. The Jets will choose second and Miami selects immediately after. Miami’s slot was originally held by the Texans, but they sent it to Miami in exchange for Kenny Stills, Laremy Tunsil, and a pair of day three picks. The Jets, however, may have more trade ammunition, as they own two first-round picks in each of the next two drafts thanks to a summer trade with Seattle that involved Jamal Adams. New York will also begin the offseason with the second-most cap space at over $65 million, behind only Jacksonville.

Watson is looking for new surroundings after the relationship between him and the Texans soured after a 4-12 season, one notably marked by the absence of top receiving topic DeAndre Hopkins, who traded to Arizona for rusher David Johnson and two picks beyond the first round. Despite the raw feelings, Watson posted a career-best 33 touchdown passes and 4,823 yards, the latter mark leading the league.

Notably, each of Watson’s preferred destinations has an established franchise quarterback option. The Jets will have Sam Darnold in the final year of his rookie contract, while the Dolphins’ offense struggled in Tua Tagovailoa’s rookie campaign last season. Saleh was noncommital when addressing Darnold’s future with the organization during his introductory statements earlier this week, but mentioned that was “premature” to call Darnold his top thrower entering training camp.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: 9 quotes from Robert Saleh (and what they could mean)

New York Jets, Robert Saleh

Robert Saleh made his first appearance as the New York Jets’ head coach on Thursday. ESM has the big takeaways.

A new era officially dawned for the New York Jets on Thursday, as Robert Saleh made his first public appearance as the head coach of the New York Jets. Saleh appeared alongside Jets CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson and general manager Joe Douglas to make his first statements as New York’s green football boss.

“When we met with Robert (Saleh), I was struck by his presence,” Johnson said, per video provided by the Jets. “He displayed an ability to engage with us in a virtual interview. He also clearly communicated a vision of this team that aligns with ours. When we met in person, it validated everything we believed following our initial meeting. Robert has shown through his journey here that he is a leader, one that will engage the entire team and will partner with Joe (Douglas) to continue building the culture of a winning organization.”

What can we gather and glean from Saleh’s first statements at the helm? ESM has the big takeaways from his first showing under the New York spotlight…

“For our organization, get used to the mantra, “All gas, no brake.” When we talk about, “All gas, no break,” we’re not talking about effort on the field, we’re talking about the process at which we do things. We’re talking about the way we prepare, the way we wake up every single morning, the way we rehab, the way we communicate, the way we speak to one another. 

What It Could Mean: Had it not been for Dan Campbell’s propensity for devouring kneecaps in Detroit, Saleh’s “All gas no brake” mantra could’ve been the quote of the day. These words from Saleh show he has little interest in a lengthy rebuild. It’s a tough love mindset that exudes a sense of intensity without taking to the extreme, almost absurd, lengths Campbell went to in his opening presser with the Lions. Saleh appears to be searching for intense competitors high in character and intensity, but without the baggage of say, a Gregg Williams. That process has begun with surrounding himself with familiar faces from his days in San Francisco, including Mike LaFleur and Miles Austin, each of whom will help oversee the offense.

To our fans, we embrace your passion, we embrace your expectations. We cannot wait to go on this journey with you. Please understand, we understand that we have a lot of work to do. But make no mistake that our goal is to win championships. And so again, I cannot wait to get through this journey with all of y’all. It’s going to be an exciting time, and I promise that you’re going to love what y’all see.

What It Could Mean: In other words…be patient. We’re only at the start of the NFL offseason…heck, it technically hasn’t begun yet with three games to go on the playoff docket…but it’s difficult to imagine the Jets will be able to make enough changes to re-enter the AFC playoff picture in 2021. Saleh’s gentle welcome back to the fans, however, is a decent sign of goodwill and will likely attract a few who might’ve been on the fence about his hire.

“When you look at the plan and what we have in place with regards to scheme, offense, defense, special teams and the mindset at which we’re going to do it, there’s an investment that’s going to be made to one another – coaches to players, players to coaches, organization to everybody – and there’s an investment that’s going to be reciprocated. But understanding that the all gas, no brake mentality that we’re going to have with how we wake up in the morning, how we rehab, how we prepare for meetings, how we take the practice field, how we’re deliberate in everything we do will lead to the results that you’ll see on Sunday. It will take time, but everything we do is going to be designed to win championships in the future.”

What It Could Mean: The Adam Gase era was likely the furthest thing from Saleh’s mind on Thursday, but it doesn’t take much stretching to see this as a bit of a jab at the environment his predecessor created in New York. Enough has been written about the phenomenon of Gase’s former proteges going on to find success away from his watch, but his negative effects were highlighted with former Jets receiver Robby Anderson admitted he was “was losing (his) love for football” in New York without mentioning Gase’s name. Gase’s strained relationships with Jamal Adams and Le’Veon Bell were also frequent talking points and led to each star’s respective departure. Saleh seems to have relative open-door endeavors in mind, seeking to make sure each player is used to the best of his abilities with a matter of respect involved. The theme of reciprocation was a strong buzzword in Saleh’s debut, as he brought it up in three separate discourses.

“What I can tell you with regards to Sam (Darnold) is that he’s got an unbelievable arm talent. There’s a reason why he was the number three pick in the draft. He’s fearless in the pocket, he’s got a natural throwing motion, he’s mobile, he’s extremely intelligent and he’s tough as nails. His reputation in the locker room is unquestioned, so just that in general, there’s a reason why he was the third pick in the draft and you can see all those qualities on tape and around the building and the way people speak about him.”

What It Could Mean: It was perhaps too much to ask for Saleh to have a concrete answer about Sam Darnold’s future on Thursday, as he said things were “premature” when it came to such an effort. But there seemed to be a hint of moving on to his comments, especially in his references to game-planning for Darnold and hyping his status as the third overall pick of the 2018 draft. It’s early in the process, but the non-commitment, necessary as it may be in a debut press conference, is only going to fuel speculation.

“With regards to a collaboration mindset, with regards to our communication with Joe and his staff – whether or not, who has control, all those different titles, what’s been made clear is that Joe and his staff want to be collaborative and they want to communicate at all levels. So, every conversation that’s had obviously with the staff and with Joe’s staff, there’s going to be a lot of discussions, there’s going to be a lot of different things are talked about. So, obviously Joe will always have final say, but I really see it in the way he’s communicating. I think when you communicate at the level that we have here, who has final say is irrelevant.”

What It Could Mean: In another, likely unintentional, jab at Gase, Saleh has dedicated himself to a working relationship with both Douglas and Johnson. This would contrast the brief, icy relationship Gase had with Mike Maccagnan, as their power struggle led to the latter’s post-draft firing in 2019. It’s safe to say that Saleh is looking for smoother relations this time around. He has also made it clear that while it appears that Douglas will have the final say in roster decisions, a system has been presented to him where having the final say would prove merely symbolic.

“I do believe that there’s a lot of talent on this roster. How those different pieces fit to the schemes that we’re about to deploy is going to be decided here in the coming weeks, but like I said, there’s a collaborative effort being made, obviously starting with Christopher Johnson and how he wants things to be run.”

What It Could Mean: While there’s no doubt that change is coming to the New York Jets, the fact that Saleh pointed out that he likes some of the names on the current ledger is intriguing. After all, one of the most common complaints of the Gase era was that he was unable to help holdovers from Bowles’ tenure reach the next level of their developments. The Jets’ defense is full of strong potential, including safety Marcus Maye, who took on a strong leadership role after Adams was shipped to Seattle. Those seeking to take that next step could be inspired to stay since Saleh appears to allow for some turnover from the team’s prior incarnation.

“I’m not going to be handling play calling duties on defense, got the utmost respect and confidence in Jeff Ulbrich to be able to do that…This is an organization that has to work locked in arms and work together and to ensure that the messaging and the way we want things done all the way across the board is there and maintaining that connection throughout, whether it’s offense, defense, special teams, business to football, somehow, some way, everyone’s got to find their connection to the player and with the mindset that we’re going to get these guys better every single day. And to be able to have that focus and ensure that the entire organization is moving in the direction that we want, I won’t be calling plays.”

What It Could Mean: The Jets announced the hiring of former San Francisco linebacker Jeff Ulbrich as defensive coordinator shortly before Saleh took to the podium. He got one of the brightest burning questions out of the way fast, announcing that Ulbrich will be calling plays on defense. It’s a bit of an early risk…the Atlanta Falcons let up over 398 yards a game in Ulbrich’s first and only seasons as a coordinator…but it shows that Saleh is willing to be hands-on in every facet of the game. That’s especially promising considering the prior season showed that nearly every major position is in desperate need of guidance.

“I’m going to be like me. And that was a challenge that Pete (Carroll) gave us when we were young assistance, was it’s easy to pick from different people and try to emulate what different people are, but in moments of adversity, your true character will always reveal itself. And so, the challenge was to identify with yourself and be who you are first because then when adversity hits, your authenticity will shine. And so, to tell you who you’re going to get, you’re going to get me. And this entire organization and what we’re going to try to get done is to be designed to win championships.”

What It Could Mean: Jets history has maintained an antiquated sense of “finding the next ____________”. They’ve been searching for the next Joe Namath ever since the legendary thrower fulfilled his promise at the Orange Bowl in Super Bowl III. Any slot receiver from a small school blessed with a catch has to endure Wayne Chrebet comparisons. Adams got out of New Jersey just before the Darrelle Revis analogies popped up. Saleh, however, is seeking to start completely fresh. He certainly thanked those that helped him get to where he is now…Carroll, Kyle Shanahan, Kris Richard, among others…but he’s not interested in being a new, say, Bill Parcells or Weeb Eubank. He wants to be the first Robert Saleh, a unique coach that leaves his own mark on New York. Saleh even mentioned in an earlier response that the perception of the Jets was “unfair, clearly”. Time will tell if Saleh can make that mark.

 “Players really want two things from a coach, I’ve always felt this way, one, they want to know that you care about their wellbeing, everyone says it’s a business, I get it, but it’s not, this is a personal investment to people. And the most important people are the ones who strap up on game day and step between the lines. And obviously, can you help them make plays on Sundays so they can get paid as much as possible and that is the goal of every single coach and everybody who has some type of impact on the players or has a connection to the players and that is going to be the goal of this entire organization, is to make sure we do everything we can to connect to their wellbeing and to help them make plays on Sunday so they get paid as much as possible. When you look at the connection part with these players, there’s an investment that has to be made, you got to sell everything you can, you got to give them everything you can and when you do, like I said, the reciprocation happens and when it does, it becomes personal, and that’s all you can ask for, to get this to a personal level where everybody’s has everybody’s back and everybody feels accountable to one another.”

What It Could Mean: The year 2020 was a year of reflection and reckoning, and the sports world was no exception to the phenomenon. Participants made it clear that they were human, not emotionless athletic machines, a realization many should’ve probably realized long ago. It’s great to see that Saleh understand such a concept. This is a coach that appears to truly care for his players in the early going, and that’s only going to make the Jets a better team. New York is a team that desperately needs unity after the Gase era left so many hurt feelings. When Bowles was let go after 2018, there was a true sense that players were not only losing a teacher but a friend as well. When Gase was hired, the strongest cheerleaders were perhaps the hot take artists like Colin Cowherd. But with Saleh, the tones of player appreciation have been on display ever since he was first connected to the Jets. Richard Sherman, one of his pupils in San Francisco, immediately sang his praises, as did Quinnen Williams. Getting these strong vibes of camaraderie back into the organization would go a long way, and it appears Saleh has started that process

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: The case against Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson, New York Giants

The idea of Deshaun Watson moving to the New York Jets sounds too good to be true. That’s because, frankly…it is.

Somehow, someway, the Houston Texans…a team blessed with the talents of one of the most recognizable names in football on each side of the ball, winners of four of the last six AFC South titles…managed to become a more toxic gridiron wasteland than the New York Jets.

To paraphrase the great Ron Burgundy, one can’t even be mad. It’s amazing.

The biggest story outside of the NFL playoff picture by far is the fate of Watson, the beleaguered franchise quarterback. No playoff games await Watson, but he is apparently nonetheless on a mission this postseason: to get out of Houston as fast as possible. It’s a liberation that has been brewing for some time and the rumbling has only intensified upon the end of the Texans’ 4-12 season. Adam Schefter of ESPN brought things to a fever pitch through a report that strongly indicated that Watson “has played his last snap for the team”.

Despite the lack of a formal trade request (and the prescience of the no-trade clause in his contract), Watson has been linked to several of his non-playoff brethren, including the Jets. The sleuths of Instagram took notice of one of Watson’s recent “likes”, one featuring potentially the first of many punny headlines from the New York Post. Richard Sherman, a noted fan of new Jets boss Robert Saleh, advised Watson to “head to New York” on Cris Collinsworth’s podcast. Video has surfaced of Watson purchasing a car his associates wanting it painted “jet green”.

From a Jets standpoint, all the pieces appear to align in their favor. The light at the end of their two-win tunnel was the second overall pick in April’s draft, a pick the Texans desperately need after shipping their own first rounder (which became the pick right after New York’s) to Miami. That more than likely won’t be enough to satisfy the Texans (who likely won’t be appearing in Wid Card Saturday’s afternoon slot anytime soon), but the Jets have the picks to atone for it, including guaranteed first-rounders from Seattle via the Jamal Adams trade. Assets beyond picks could include contributors under contract that might become salary cap casualties anyway…talented names like Jamison Crowder and Henry Anderson that could potentially save the Jets a pick. Thier cap space is already pretty attractive as is; entering the 2021 offseason, the Jets have just over $65 million to spend, behind only Jacksonville ($73 million).

The Jets have been looking for a lasting franchise quarterback after since Joe Namath took his final green snaps in 1976. False prophets have come and gone, but a name like Watson, only starting to tap into his true potential and power, could give the Jets long-term assurance and stability at arguably the most important position in all of sports.

If all of this sounds too good to be true…especially when it comes to a franchise as star-crossed as the Jets…that’s because, frankly, it probably is. A union between Watson and the Jets wouldn’t be fair to either side, tantalizing as it may be.

For Watson, a New York collaboration wouldn’t be much different from his current situation in Houston…except it would be a lot colder. From a Jets’ standpoint, there would little separate a potential era of Watson from the Sam Darnold saga. The way the team is constructed now, there would be plenty of instances of Watson running for his life, and this would be after he led the league in passing yardage despite being brought down 49 times with the Texans (third-worst in football). Watson’s mobile talents would perhaps spare him some of the carnage, but likely nothing where he would be able to make a meaningful difference in the Jets’ offense, one that finished at or near the bottom of most major statistical categories.

To the Jets’ credit, namely general manager Joe Douglas’, they’re starting to making sensible, rational, if not conservative, decisions with their offensive roster. In his first draft last spring, Douglas bypassed the name-brand receiving talent to take tackle Mekhi Becton. Not only did Becton turn out to be one of the brightest emergences of the 2020 rookie class, but Douglas was also able to earn a big-play receiver in Denzel Mims in the second round. There’s also plenty of time between now and Week 1 of a hopefully normal 2021 season…heck, there’s plenty of time even before the draft…for Douglas, Saleh, and the Jets to stock up and become more attractive to a new franchise quarterback, whether it’s Watson, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields. There’s no guarantee they’ll even move on from Darnold, who has reportedly caught the eye of both Saleh and his reported new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.

Unfortunately for Douglas, however, his debut veteran acquisition class left much to be desired, riddled with names that were plagued by injuries (Bradley McDougald, Greg Van Roten), inconsistency (Connor McGovern, Pierre Desir), or both (Breshad Perriman). Adding Watson is the type of move a team makes when they’re the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl. If the Adam Gase era proved anything, it’s that the Jets are many, many moves away from a mere playoff berth, much less the Big Game.

The Jets needed to use every asset, every piece of roster capital they have to end this cycle of rebuilding. Dedicating a majority of those resources, be it picks, be it cap space, to Watson and his contract (which includes a $40 million cap hit next year) would be reckless spending, using excess fund to plug one hole when there are many, many, many holes to be filled. Bringing Watson in would sell jerseys, but it wouldn’t necessarily lead to wins.

Modern NFL endeavors have provided countless examples of such irresponsible spending. The Jets’ MetLife Stadium co-tenants, for example, were on the verge of something at least entertaining at the end of the 2016-17 season. In the first year of their post-Tom Coughlin endeavors, the New York Giants won 11 games and showcased six All-Pro men on their roster. Their season ended in a listless 38-13 Wild Card playoff loss in Green Bay, but hope was on the horizon, manifested in several high-profile transactions. Big Blue welcomed in receiver Brandon Marshall to work alongside Odell Beckham Jr. They used their first-round pick on tight end Evan Engram, an Ole Miss alum to gear up fellow former Rebel Eli Manning for one last run to glory. Later in the draft, the Giants took Davis Webb in the third round, perhaps the most serious they had come to seeking an heir to the Manning throne. The team also re-upped with fan favorite pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul to the tune of a four-year contract with $40 million guaranteed.

But in their marquee spending, the Giants failed to account for some of more dour problems hidden on their roster, namely the offensive line. The Giants did little, if anything, to upgrade their line, letting reliable veterans like Andrew Whitworth fall by the wayside. Cursed with little to no blocking help, the Giants sputtered to a brutal 3-13 season and fell down a hole they have yet to emerge from. Beckham has since been traded, and there is little left from the promising 2016 campaign.

The story of the modern Giants and so many other “offseason champions” in the NFL serve as cautionary tales to active Super Bowl seekers. A house renovation could serve as a strong parable to what the Jets are going through at this moment. Bringing in Watson would be a high-profile purchase, immediately spending a windfall on, say, a luxury vehicle or swimming pool. However, doing so would ignore more grimy, subtle problems in the house that could bring the entire structure down…mold damage in the basement, perhaps. Even if the Jets admit that Darnold isn’t the answer, there are still situations to resolve, such as their porous blocking, uncertain rungame situation, and lack of offensive weapons and defensive depth. Filling every blank with Watson isn’t going to work, no matter how hard the Jets try. The Texans have tried doing that with Watson and J.J. Watt…chaos has enused.

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It seems hard for Jets fans to believe, but that’s the cruelly funny thing about life in the NFL: there’s no situation, no matter how dire, where things can’t actively get worse. The Jets have been blessed with a plethora of offseason capital through multiple draft picks and excess cap space. To cash it all in on one big-ticket player would be reckless.

Another reason why Watson’s potential New York arrival sounds so promising is because not only has he made an impact on the field, but he continues to be a vital prescience off of it as well. Watson has made it clear he wants to use his voice for good as Americans seek an end to systemic racism and he has also come through for Houston medical staffers fighting the ongoing health crisis. Bringing in a high-character superstar would be the perfect way to open a new Jets era, one that could allow them to shatter the losing status quo that New York football has become far-too-accustomed to. Watson’s rumored eagerness to join a two-win team bearing what’s by far the longest playoff drought in the NFL (10 seasons) speaks volumes as well, signifying a welcome counter to the concept of “ring-chasing” that has spread throughout the major professional sports leagues.

But to ask Watson to come to New York and become a lone, instant fixer-upper…which is essentially what he would be if the Jets bestow all of their offseason funding unto him…when he’s on the precipice of entering his prime is a little too much to ask for. A more established contender, a Miami, an Indianapolis, would be better for a player of his talents. If the Jets truly want to make a change at quarterback, they would be far better off using their cap space to create a more attractive environment for a rookie quarterback, or even build around Darnold if Saleh and LaFleur are impressed enough to keep him around.

This is a new, exciting time to take an interest in the New York Jets…it’s so rare to say that. While there’s a chance that Douglas could make the Watson revolution work, it’s best, for the time being, to avoid temptation. It’s never good to use an “all for one” mentality…the assets, an “all for all” situation, would be better spent on many helpers, never mind just one, showstopping as he may be.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Miles Austin, Taylor Embree headed to New York Jets staff (Report)

Austin and Embree are the latest names reported to be joining Robert Saleh’s new staff with the New York Jets.

With Robert Saleh’s New York Jets contract officially signed, his staff reportedly continues to grow.

Former receivers Miles Austin and Taylor Embree are coming to the metropolitan area, according to Peter Schrager of NFL Network (Schrager has also called Jets preseason games in recent summers). Austin will take over the receivers’ coach spot, while Embree will take over as the running backs coach.

Austin, 36, would return to New Jersey after a 10-year career primarily spent with the Dallas Cowboys. A native of Summit and alum of Garfield High School and Monmouth University, Austin led the NFL in receiving yardage during his breakout season in 2009, earning 1,320 en route to Dallas’ NFC East title. His 250 receiving yards in a win over Kansas City from that season still stands as a Cowboys record. Following his eight seasons in Dallas, which included a pair of Pro Bowl appearances (2009-10), Austin played two final seasons with Cleveland and Philadelphia. Injuries marred the final parts of his career, as Austin managed to play a full 16-game season only once after his final five campaigns.

Following his playing career, Austin rejoined the Cowboys, this time working in their scouting department. He would later spend a year alongside Saleh in 2019 as an offensive quality control coach with San Franciso, joining him in Super Bowl LIV. Austin left the team prior to the 2020 season. In the interim, Austin went back to Monmouth and earned his degree in political science. He previously departed Long Branch as the program’s all-time leader in receiving yards and was the first former Hawk to appear in a regular season NFL game.

Embree, 32, likewise worked with Saleh during his years with the 49ers, spending three seasons as an offensive quality control coach. He was likewise part of the 49ers group that went to the most recent Super Bowl, ironically falling to the Kansas City Chiefs, with whom he worked as a defensive assistant. More recently, Embree served as the tight ends coach at Colorado University under Karl Dorrell, his former head coach at UCLA. The Buffaloes went 4-1 in a shortened season and advanced to the Alamo Bowl, their first postseason appearance since 2016.

During his time with the Bruins, Embree earned 1,776 yards on 137 receptions over a four-year career. The 531 yards he earned during his rookie campaign were a program record for a true freshman. He later partook in the San Diego Chargers’ training camp proceedings during the summer of 2013.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: It’s time to give Todd Bowles another shot at head coaching

If the NFL is going to continue to hire retreads, former New York Jets boss Todd Bowles undoubtedly deserves another opportunity.

The NFL is full of unusual phenomena. For example, fans rue the creation of the fumble/touchback rule seen in Sunday’s AFC Divisional playoff action. A team based in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex partakes in the NFC East competition.

But perhaps the NFL’s most bizarre trend is trying to force a square peg into a round hole and trying to make the same few names work in different places.

The New York Jets recently went through this trend with Adam Gase, hiring him in 2019 after a modest tenure with Miami. Despite Gase’s losing record (23-25 and one forgettable playoff appearance) and a propensity for his pupils to succeed elsewhere (Ryan Tannehill, Kenyan Drake), the Jets were convinced that he was the missing ingredient and perfect overseer of Sam Darnold’s developmental years. Two years and nine wins later, Gase is gone and the Jets are in even more dire straits.

This time around, the Jets opted for a fresh face in former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, whose hiring was announced last week. But while they opted for a new face, some of their NFL brethren didn’t seem to get the message. Jason Garrett rewrote the definition of football mediocrity in Dallas but that didn’t stop the Los Angeles Chargers from granting him an interview. Before Saleh’s hire, the Jets interviewed Marvin Lewis, owner of the most inexplicable 16-year head coaching tenure in NFL history. The Dallas Cowboys gave Mike McCarthy control of their future after the former Packers foreman reached a mere single Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers in tow. Though the concept appears to be slowly dying off, it’s particularly frustrating to see some claim that Eric Bieniemy doesn’t “interview well” while Bill O’Brien did. Sure, sometimes a change in the narrative is possible, but for every Pete Carroll, there are multiple Hue Jacksons.

If the retread trend is going to continue, those who deserve redemption should get another shot. Former Jets boss Todd Bowles has more than earned the right. The owner of a Super Bowl ring from his endeavors with Washington, Bowles is now a win away from earning a return trip as the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His unit will have their work cut out for them as they face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Sunday’s NFC title game (3:05 p.m. ET, Fox).

Obviously, Bowles’ next head coaching opportunity won’t come in a New York reunion, but rumors have surfaced that he will interview for the Philadelphia Eagles’ vacancy this week. Like Saleh, Bowles’ modern hiring was a risk with the Jets back in 2015 and it’s a risk today with the modern NFL’s worship of a deity known as fantasy football. But in this world where the “over” is routinely hit and goal-to-go situations can be created through merely breathing on a receiver, Bowles is doing anything he can to prove that defense still wins championships. So far, he’s succeeding.

Tampa Bay’s late surge, winners of six in a row after health protocols, has coincided with Bowles’ defense coming up with big plays. They’ve forced multiple turnovers in three of their last four games and have let up less than 300 passing yards in each of that quartet. The magnum opus was Sunday’s NFL Divisional playoff tilt in New Orleans, when the Buccaneers forced four game-changing turnovers in a 30-20 win. In a game headlined by Drew Brees and Tom Brady, Bowles made sure that the true difference-makers were Devin White and Antonie Winfield Jr.

Those four steals perhaps weren’t even the most impressive turnovers of the evening, but rather the growth that Bowles’ unit made from their last tilt with New Orleans. In a nationally televised visit to Cigar City, the Saints tallied 38 points and 420 yards in a one-sided victory. Tampa Bay let up only 294 yards and 20 points on Sunday, with two of the New Orleans scoring drives netting less than 50 yards.

“I think the No. 1 thing is (that) Todd Bowles said we were going to be feisty,” White, he of 11 tackles, an interception, and the recovery of Winfield’s forced fumble on Sunday, said in a report from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “We were going to challenge those guys. He’s said he’s going to take us over them. I know we might be young, but we can get after it when we get our mindset to it. Everybody was saying, where’s the Tampa Bay defense from the Green Bay game? We were really feisty and challenging them at the line of scrimmage and really getting after the quarterback, and we had the same mentality.”

White’s reference to Tampa’s conference title game opponent stemmed from a stellar showing at home back in October. Tampa defenders earned five sacks of Rodgers and limited Green Bay to 201 yards in a 38-10 blowout victory.

Bowles’ success in his Tampa Bay role, having joined Bruce Arians’ staff in 2019, could well be a case of being a brilliant coordinator whose skills as a head coach fall short. We’ve seen it throughout recent history in examples like Steve Spagnuolo, Wade Phillips, and Josh McDaniels, among others. After their respective rough patches at the helm, they have each established themselves as championship coordinators, and there’s no shame in that. But for his role in shutting down some of the more potent offenses in football, a task rendered brutal by the love of offense in today’s league, Bowles deserves a chance to prove he can go beyond coordination.

If Bowles’ on-field performance isn’t an indicator of why he’s so worthy of a second chance, it’s the love his players have bestowed upon him. If a team is looking for a new head coach, it usually means there are some raw feelings flowing through the organization. A unifier like Bowles could be just the antidote to quell these feelings, if only for a short while.

Sure, Bowles’ tenure seems only sweet in the lens of a New York retrospect because the Gase era was so brutal. The Jets went 24-40 in four seasons under his supervision and even the one season of progress…his 2015 debut…is remembered best for one of the most heartwrenching memories in recent New York memory, the ugly Week 17 loss in Buffalo that cost the team a rare playoff spot. But there was no denying that Bowles was beloved by his players, who lauded him with accolades upon receiving news of his exit.

“I hate to see the news,” linebacker Avery Williamson, traded to Pittsburgh in 2020, said in the aftermath. “He’s a great person, great coach. I feel like he definitely helped get my game up to another level this year. He definitely taught me a whole lot of plays.”

Compared to the de facto restrained jubilation in the wake of Gase’s departure, Bowles’ ousting a solemn occasion in New York. The firing was flipping to a new chapter that no one wanted to turn to.

“To come up short and to hear the news that Coach Bowles wasn’t going to be here anymore, it (stinks),” quarterback Sam Darnold added. “I think Coach Bowles, his type of leadership, he showed me that you can just be you and people will respect that. as long as you come in and be the same person day in and day out. He showed me how to lead and that it’s possible to lead that way.”

Much as we, the football-loving public, will continue to turn to the NFL to get our professional fix, it will continue to do things and make moves that shock and perplex us. The powers that be should make sure that Todd Bowles being denied a second opportunity at head coaching, one granted to countless others, isn’t one.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags