New York Jets: Could Gardner Minshew be an answer at QB?

The New York Jets have already added one former Jacksonville Jaguar. Could another help them solidify a youthful revolt on offense?

Salvation for the two-win New York Jets could be earned through the one team that managed to finish worse: the 1-15 Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Jets have already added one North Floridian import in receiver Keelan Cole, a slot receiver that managed to earn a Duval-best 2,242 yards over the last four seasons despite relentless turnover at the quarterback position. Cole entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and has had seven different starters throw to him, including three alone last season.

Jacksonville has a prime opportunity to finally stop the carousel as the owners of the top pick of April’s NFL Draft. The consensus top choice is Clemson star Trevor Lawrence. The Jets are immediately behind them and are doing their due diligence on rookie throwers like Justin Fields and Zach Wilson, as Sam Darnold’s future remains a metropolitan talking point.

But could the Jets’ solution like in further negotiations with the Jaguars.

The incumbent thrower in Jacksonville is Gardner Minshew, a sixth-round pick out of Washington State in the 2019 draft. Jacksonville has reportedly embarked on an endeavors to trade Minshew before Lawrence presumably dons teal and black on April 29. Minshew has produced some impressive numbers despite working in relative gridiron squalor in Jacksonville, posting 5,530 yards, 37 touchdowns and only 11 receptions over the last two seasons.

ESM has four reasons why the Jets should investigate…

He’s an upgrade

As the Jets continue to ponder the Darnold situation, many have risen in defense of the third overall pick from 2018, claiming his subpar numbers (79.1 passer rating, 28 touchdowns, 24 interceptions) are the result of a toxic football environment brought upon by the Adam Gase era. However, Minshew has arguably had even worse surroundings in the wasteland of Jacksonville’s post-AFC title game visit in 2017.

With 23 games (21 starts) under his belt, Minshew nonetheless has Darnold bested in touchdown passes, yardage, and passer rating despite partaking in two fewer games than the Jets’ incumbent. There’s time for Darnold to get his NFL act together, but if Minshew, who has proven he can produced in a professional setting, can help the Jets in the short-term and finally get some offensive momentum moving in the right direction, it’d help this hopeful chapter of the Jets’ perpetual rebuild get started on the right note.

He has connection with a crucial newcomer

After a relatively slow start, the Jets have made a strong effort to upgrade their receiving weaponry. Reliable slot man Jamison Crowder appears to be on his way back with hopeful second round choice Denzel Mims. The newcomers have arrived from the AFC South. Corey Davis, fresh off a career-best season in Tennessee, joins the fold with Cole, the Jaguars’ most prolific receiver over the last four seasons.

Minshew bestowed some strong praise unto Colege heading into the 2020 season, comments that indicate that he would have no qualms working with him again.

“I love throwing to Cole and I’m excited to see what he’s going to be doing,” Minshew said per Demetrius Harvey of Big Cat Country. “He’s got really good hands, can play all three positions, he makes the tough catch, he’s been very consistent, he’s become better at this route running, he’s been able to get in and out a little better, so you see an improvement from last year to this year.”

The Jets backed themselves into a bit of a corner 

The Jets have undoubtedly upgraded this offseason, at least on paper. But their primary concern remains unsolved, one even bigger than the quarterback conundrum.

New York can resolve their quarterback situation one way or another. They can stick with Darnold, trade for a name like Minshew or Russell Wilson (the Deshaun Watson pursuit is likely on hold for obvious reasons), or wait until the draft. But no matter who the quarterback is, he’s going to need protection through a retooled offensive line. With the exception of adding the Los Angeles Chargers’ Dan Feeney…high in personality, low in analytical gradings…the Jets haven’t done anything to upgrade their much-maligned unit. Drafting Mekhi Becton was a good start last season, but general manager Joe Douglas’ free agency renovations haven’t panned out. Recurring target Joe Thuney is off to protect Patrick Mahomes in New England while Green Bay stud Corey Linsley is off to Feeney’s old stomping grounds.

Thus, the Jets find themselves in a bit of a conundrum. If they draft a quarterback, the poor first-year man will likely be running for his life or potentially see his confidence shattered behind a makeshift blocking unit. Thus, using the second choice on top blocking prospect Penei Sewell out of Oregon. Minshew would be a strong, if not temporary, solution while the Jets try to bolster the men in front of him.

Furthermore, taking on Minshew’s contract is a light load the Jets could handle while seeking out further options on the line. Over the next couple of seasons, Minshew’s combined cap hit is in the $2 million range.

He brings stability to a franchise in desperate need of it

Time will tell how Minshew’s NFL career plays out. As of now, he appears set to inherit Ryan Fitzpatrck’s throne in terms of being a serviceable fill-in option while accompanying such endeavors with a larger-than-life personality. At this point, he’s probably not a future franchise quarterback. But he can provide a sense of stability to a Jets team in desperate need of it, a security blanket, if only for a sense or two that the Jets desperately need.

The Jets are working on a playoff drought that’s nearly old enough to see a PG-13-rated movie without parental supervision. Ending that drought is a lot to ask for this year with still so many established contenders, no matter how much hope Robert Saleh brings to this team. But the Jets need to re-establish a sense of stability to their franchise at any cost possible. Thus, using Minshew as a stopgap option of sorts can help make the Jets a destination of sorts.

A comparable case came during the 2017 campaign in the form of Josh McCown. While far older and probably never reaching the statistical heights that Minshew has already traversed, McCown’s strong season on a Jets team some predicted would go winless helped them bring some stability to a team whose quarterback situation was in flux. The team had one less thing to worry about and was able to bide their time in finding a successor while being competitive in the meantime. McCown went 5-8 as a starter…featuring a win over the aforementioned AFC finalists from Jacksonville…but six of those eight defeats came by a single possession. Minshew can help the Jets build something further, helping get a new regime off in the right direction.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets positional preview 2021: Quarterbacks

ESM opens its New York Jets offseason preview by pondering what they’ll do at the quarterback slot in 2021.

The Position: Quarterback
On the Roster: Sam Darnold, James Morgan
Free Agents: Joe Flacco
Reserve/Future: Mike White

When will green smoke arise from One Jets Drive?

The New York Jets are once again pondering its future at the franchise quarterback slot, as a potentially turbulent stretch awaits. Many still have hope in the potential of Sam Darnold, but new regimes often bring sweeping changes to NFL franchises. The primary quarterback start is often the first spot to undergo a makeover. New York is in the second full year of Joe Douglas’ tenure as general manager, while Robert Saleh is ready to succeed Adam Gase as the head coach.

It’s easy to dismiss the struggles of Darnold as being trapped in a situation far from his own doing. In his three years at the helm, Darnold has eeked out flashes of brilliance despite endless waves of turmoil and turnover. To put things in perspective, only a single Darnold target from Darnold’s rookie season of 2018 was on the Jets roster in this past season, and that one outlier (fellow 2018 draftee Chris Herndon) hasn’t matched the promise shown in his debut campaign. The blocking wall in front of Darnold has seen more names flipped than the departures board at Grand Central Terminal. Long-term options in each spot have appeared to present themselves through Denzel Mims and Mekhi Becton respectively but with so many attractive names through both free agency and the draft presenting themselves, the temptation to start over might prove too great. Darnold’s early misfortunes when it comes to injuries also may not work in his favor, as he has yet to play a full NFL season.

In his opening statements as Jets head coach, Saleh praised Darnold repeatedly, noting the difficulty in scouting him when his former compatriots came to New York for a September tilt earlier this season. But, nothing the gap between winter and training camp, Saleh did leave the door open to change.

“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,” Saleh said in video provided by the Jets. “We’re just getting the (coaching) staff into the building, so there’s so many things that we have to do from an evaluation standpoint with regards to the entire roster, not just at quarterback. To give you that answer right now would not be fair.”

Also under contract for the Jets is fourth-round pick James Morgan, who did not dress in any games last season.

Free Agents-to-be

Joe Flacco

The former Super Bowl MVP did a respectable job in four starts in substitute duties, throwing for 848 yards and six touchdowns. His Total Quarterback Rating, calculated by ESPN, of 57.9 was his best since 2014.

While Flacco could be brought back as a veteran mentor and backup to Darnold or the new, younger franchise man, the former Super Bowl MVP hinted that he believes he can still be a consistent NFL starter.

“I obviously still believe that I’m a starting quarterback,” Flacco said in May, per Andy Vazquez. “You never know what three years down the line is going to look like, so I still have that confidence and I still have the want, the want to to do that. But at this moment, that’s not my role.”

Will They Draft?

It’s very possible, depending on how the free agency market shakes out. Falling out of the top spot of the draft no longer seems like a tragedy it was made out to be after the College Football Playoff, particularly during its Sugar Bowl leg. Ohio State thrower Justin Fields outplayed presumed top choice Trevor Lawrence en route to a 49-28 victory, leaving the first choosers in Jacksonville a big decision to make while the Jets can swoop in and take who’s left. Of course, if the Jets land one of the names below, drafting a quarterback would be null and void.

If the Jets do decide to stick with Darnold, it’s possible they could use one of their day two picks (owning an extra through the Jamal Adams trade with Seattle) on a quarterback to raise the heat on the incumbent. Options in a relatively deep class could include Kyle Trask and Mac Jones.

Veteran Possibilities

Deshaun Watson, Houston

Not even the chase for the Super Bowl could derail the hype around Watson and his potential next destination. Things hit a green fever pitch over the weekend when Watson reportedly declared that New York would be his ideal destination. Saleh celebrant Richard Sherman has done nothing to dispel the rumors, joining Cris Collinsworth’s podcast to encourage Watson to get to the metropolitan area. It speaks volumes that Watson, who has also reportedly expressed interest in working with Saleh, would be willing to come to a team that is potentially rebuilding.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit

Over the weekend, ESPN Adam Schefter reported that Stafford and the Lions appear headed toward a divorce. The Jets, again, have the cap space to work with a big contract like Stafford’s, but, like Watson, it wouldn’t be fair to subject him to the franchise the way it is now…there is no Calvin Johnson on this team, at least at the moment. But since the Jets have the assets to work with, it would almost be foolish to not consider the possibility.

Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis 

Would the Jets be better off with a placeholder quarterback of sorts as they seek to regain their NFL footing? There are few better options than Brissett if they opted to go that route. Brissett faces a bit of a crossroads in his career, in that he could fight to regain the starting position with the Colts now that Phillip Rivers has retired, or seek a new opportunity elsewhere. He did a solid job stepping for Andrew Luck upon the latter’s sudden retirement and later developed a slight niche for coming in on short-yardage or deep-ball situations.

Outlook

It seems safe to assume that the Jets’ quarterback situation will be different going into the 2021 campaign, whether it’s at the top or in terms of understudies. If prior regime changes across the NFL are any indicator, it seems that the Jets will indeed move on from Darnold, with the only question being whether it comes through the draft or free agency.

Opting to find a new franchise man through the draft might be a conservative but far more affordable option. Adding a name like Deshaun Watson to New York sounds like a lot of fun and the Jets have plenty of assets through draft picks and cap space to negotiate with. But the fact of the matter is that the Jets have many, many holes to fill beyond the quarterback spot…which, in the eyes of some, may not need to be filled in the first place. If there’s little left to spend to fill the other holes, then a player like Watson or Matthew Stafford would be no better off than when they started.

To spend a majority of the offseason budget on a single big-ticket item wouldn’t be smart. There’s time, however, to make the situation more attractive to an incoming rookie quarterback by parceling those assets through building blocking help and more weaponry.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The New York Jets won a game…and that’s completely fine

The New York Jets committed a mortal football sin on Sunday: a win in Los Angeles. But Gang Green has nothing to apologize for.

Christmas morning came about five days early for New York Jets fans.

Week 15 action saw two of their wildest fantasies become a reality, a pair of gifts that would generate a reaction forever immortalized in home movies. The early window of Sunday action saw the New England Patriots’ postseason streak finally end in a loss in Miami. On the other side of the country, the Jets perhaps prompted toasts of Zima amongst members of the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns. Their 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams…a team in legitimate contention for an NFL postseason spot…ended a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak and helped the Jets avoid 16-game imperfection.

For Jets fans, topping a team that could well be playing into February after watching the Patriots get erased from the playoff picture could’ve created rare tidings of comfort and joy. It was a feeling of watching your worst enemy have his gift of a PlayStation 5 taken away, but not before you get to use it for a couple of hours.

But, this being the year 2020 A.D., the sweetest of Sunday feelings, denied to the green New York fandom until the penultimate week of this cursed 366-day process, was viewed as the worst thing that could happen to an already star-crossed franchise.

The Jets’ victory in Los Angeles proved to be, in the eyes of some fans, an early Festivus miracle, as their feat of strength set off an airing of grievances unlike any other. Their triumph came at a price, the charge being lost real estate on the draft board in Cleveland. New York’s name now appears in the second slot, behind only the Jacksonville Jaguars, their compatriot in the brotherhood of 1-13 ledgers. Creating the imperfect, unholy trinity with the Lions and Browns has been no concern to the Jaguars, who have lost 13 in a row after winning on opening day. Their latest defeat was a listless 40-14 showing in Baltimore and they certainly won’t be favored in their final contests against Chicago and Indianapolis, each of whom harbors playoff dreams (the latter game could help the Colts win the AFC South). Jacksonville holds the tiebreaker with a worse strength of schedule.

The fear amongst Jets fans is that Jacksonville now has the inside track for Trevor Lawrence, who perhaps broke the hearts of two green teams in the span of a weekend. Saturday saw the Clemson quarterback solidify his status as the consensus top pick, torching Notre Dame for 412 total yards and three scores in a 34-10 victory in the ACC title game. Jets fans were willing to accept inclusion on the list of winless teams in NFL history in exchange for the glory of Lawrence. Now, Lawrence appears bound for Jacksonville, a five hour drive from Miami, where many believe he and the Tigers will be on January 11 for college football’s national title game.

But…it’s shocking it needs to be said, but hey, it’s 2020…what’s done is done. There’s no use crying over spilled Gatorade. The Jets won a game…and that’s perfectly all right.

Tank the Tank

The notion of tanking is ludicrous in all walks of life, particularly in a profession where you can be one of the 32 best people at your job in the entire world, and observers and supervisors alike will call for your axing.

To their macabre credit, the Jets rarely seemed to buy into the concept. Sure, there have been incidents where they might’ve been better off staying home…the brutal visits to Indianapolis, Miami, and Seattle come to mind…but one can look at the Jets’ 2020 schedule and find instances where, on paper, they should’ve come out with a win. Nothing more needs to be said about the ill-advised final blitz against Las Vegas, but they had control for a majority of prime time contests against Denver and New England. Even their first visit to SoFi Stadium could’ve gone worse, as they played the Chargers to a 34-28 decision.

Members of the modern Jets have been clear where their priorities lie. Spoiler alert, they’re not on the draft board.

“I don’t put my body through this, I don’t think anybody on the Jets puts their body through it, to lose,” offensive lineman McGovern said prior to the departure to Los Angeles, per Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “It might be easy for somebody sitting on the couch, eating pizza, chips, and dip, to say they should keep losing, but if they’ve ever strapped the pads on, that sounds like an impossible thing for me to do. I’m going to do whatever I can to win.”

Mekhi Becton, a rare Jet who has a spot on this roster beyond 2020, advocated that those rooting for losses should turn in their New York fan credentials.

“You ain’t really a fan if you didn’t want us to win, honestly,” Becton told Jeane Coakley of SNY. “I mean that in the nicest way possible. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. But I mean, if you wanted us to lose, you’re not a real fan, honestly.”

Even before the losses began to pile up, the Jets were made up of players who needed to prove their worth to build a long-term NFL future. That was apparent in general manager Joe Douglas’ free agent haul this offseason, where all but one signee (McGovern) was granted a contract worth one year or contained an affordable exit after 2020. To ask these players to toss away their final chances to impress, not only for the Jets but for the 31 other NFL squads as well, for the sake of a “reward” they maybe not even be around to witness is out of touch. For these players, these final hours could be the difference between another NFL paycheck or waiting for the XFL to come back in 2022.

Some of those holdovers are carving spots for themselves on a future roster. Midseason acquisition Ty Johnson earned the first 100-yard rushing game from a Jets rusher against Las Vegas and scored a touchdown on the opening drive against the Rams. Neville Hewitt is working his way toward another New York contract with 122 tackles. One can even point at Sam Darnold’s case as to why the Jets shouldn’t be tanking. He has, from at least a team standpoint, consequence-free opportunities to convince the Jets that he deserves to maintain his hold on the position.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that people will go to great lengths to keep their livelihoods when they’re on the line. The Jets shouldn’t be faulted for doing so in a relatively harmless fashion.

Hold that Tiger

Lawrence mastery on Saturday might’ve been just enough for even the staunchest Jets supporter to consider wearing blue, cream, and yellow in support of the Rams the next day. There’s no doubt that whoever is getting Lawrence is getting an incredible talent on and off the field. His prowess on the gridiron speaks for itself and he became a strong voice of unity and leadership elsewhere. Along with Sugar Bowl opponent and likely fellow first-rounder Justin Fields of Ohio State, Lawrence was an advocate for both societal equality and safely finding a way to play the 2020 college football amidst the ongoing health crisis.

But for all his magic, for all his powers…even Lawrence is not a be-all, end-all, fix-all solution to the New York Jets franchise.

Sure, there’s plenty of time for the Jets to tidy up and make their organization attractive to a sought-after newcomer, be a rookie like Lawrence or a veteran free agent like Allen Robinson or JuJu Smith-Schuster. But it’s going to take a lot of work. The Le’Veon Bell case perhaps set the Jets’ transactional affairs back further than they could’ve imagined. What high-ticket free agent is going to look at the way the Bell situation played out, becoming a saga plagued by infighting amongst the team’s decisionmakers and leading to the post-draft firing of a general manager, and look to replicate that? The Jets certainly have a strong budget to work with (just below $73 million and potentially counting if they cut pricey veterans like Henry Anderson and George Fant), but they’ll need to do a better job building relationships.

At the very least, Douglas has made it clear that he has a plan, leaving traces of his blueprints across his transactions, even if they haven’t fully played out. When the quarterback needed blocking, Douglas traded for Alex Lewis and convinced Ryan Kalil to come out of retirement. With Darnold low on weapons, Douglas signed Breshad Perriman and found a day two gem in Denzel Mims in the draft. Noe everything has panned out on the field…Kalil failed to play up to his Pro Bowl form and Perriman has been inconsistent…but it at least showed that Douglas knew how to chase down a need position.

There’s definitely hope on the horizon. Mims has shown flashes of brilliance despite bouts with injury and Becton has been everything the Jets could’ve asked for. But this group, particularly the offensive line, is very much a work in progress. Putting Lawrence behind the current blocking unit would be only asking for trouble. There’s time to improve between now and the spring, but, if things stay the way they are, the Lawrence era probably wouldn’t be that much different from Darnold’s.

But, contrary to popular belief amongst the pro-tank crowd, the draft does not begin and end once Lawrence’s name is called. At least 224 men will be added to NFL rosters in Cleveland, and the Jets will be choosing quite often. Cincinnati’s shocking win on Monday night over Pittsburgh, perhaps another victory seen as ill-advised by those who wish to tank, ensured that the Jets would choose no later than second overall come April. There’s plenty of other needs that can be immediately satisfied with the No. 2 pick, even if Lawrence is donning a Jaguars cap and jersey. The non-Lawrence quarterback would be well protected with the combined efforts of Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater. He can throw to Ja’Marr Chase or Devonta Smith. The yearly couple against Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa would be easier to bear pass rushers Kwity Paye or Jayson Oweh if they trade down. Others from those positions (i.e. Azeez Ojulari, Wyatt Davis, or Terrace Marshall) could be available when the Jets choose later on day one with Seattle’s pick, obtained from the Jamal Adams trade.

It’s fair to mourn the loss of Lawrence in the early going…and even more so when rewatching the film from Charlotte on Saturday…but it’s a potential loss they can overcome with the right brand of drafting and scouting ingenuity.

New York Jets, Adam Gase
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Change is Still Coming

The Jets might’ve been on the right side of the scoreboard after Sunday’s affair, but there were still plenty of reminders as to why they’re long eliminated from the NFL playoff picture. Inspiring and fun as the win may be…former Super Bowl offensive coordinator and Jets head coach Adam Gase remarked per The Post that “I don’t think I’ve seen a group more excited after a game than what I saw (Sunday) when talking about the postgame reaction…it’d be silly to believe that it’ll serve as the deciding factor as to whether some veterans stay or go.

From a playcalling standpoint, for example, there’s no reason to waste consequence-free games on giving the ball to Frank Gore 23 times a game while Johnson carried it only thrice (returning rookie La’Mical Perine didn’t get any). There was a chance for the Jets to build on a 13-0 lead going into the halftime break, but opted for short runs that allowed Los Angeles to get the ball back and add a triple. The defense took a notable step backward when an injured Quinnen Williams was forced to leave the game, giving up three consecutive scoring drives in the second half.

Another asterisk came in the form of the opponent. Rams rusher Cam Akers, fresh off a career-best 171-yard performance against New England, was affected by an ankle injury they stripped him of his true impact (though two long Akers runs, including a touchdown, were called back due to penalties in the second half). Even if the Jets did buy into tanking, Los Angeles almost wouldn’t allow it. Five of the first six Rams possessions ended in a punt, one of which was blocked by J.T. Hassell. The outlier in that group resulted in a Bryce Hall interception.

So, unless Johnson or Gore helped you win your fantasy football semifinal, only true football die-hards are going to remember this win. Change is still coming with to the Jets. Previews of the purge have been plentiful…just ask Bell, Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, Pierre Desir, or Gregg Williams…but it should begin in earnest this offseason. If the Jets are truly on the fence about Gase, a December win against an opponent that was clearly not operating at top speed shouldn’t be enough to sway the pendulum back in his favor.

Douglas has a plan, picks, and prosperity through cap space. One win, even at the cost of one potential quarterback, shouldn’t be the force of destruction that upends it all.

It’s rare enough that the Jets earn a thrilling December victory in this day and age. If you’re a fan, you should feel no reservation toward celebrating it.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Three reasons why a QB1 would want to come to the New York Jets

New York Jets, Trevor Lawrence

Enough negativity, pessimism, and parody has surrounded the 2020 New York Jets. It’s time to focus on a (hopefully) brighter future.

It’s understandable to see why the 2020 New York Jets have become a bit of a punchline. The team appears to be the year 2020 A.D. personified, trapped for five more weeks in a season that will go down in infamy, even if the Jets (0-11) do manage to eke out a win before all is said and done. Their next opportunity to do comes on Sunday afternoon against the Las Vegas Raiders (1 p.m. ET, CBS). 

The Jets and their fans have been through untold amounts of gridiron catastrophe over the decades, but a winless season has avoided them for the time being. Either way, those who make football funnies, both through pregame shows and social media, have been granted a plethora of material by the Jets’ modern endeavors.

It seems like a tired tradition at this point, but Jets fans are looking toward the future with hope. The light at the end of the turfed tunnel appears to be the right to choose first at the 2021 NFL Draft come spring. It’s assumed by many that, if the Jets were to secure that pick, they would use it one of the passing talents at the top of the big boards.

But football comedians and analysts alike are seeking to deny the Jets even that simple pleasure. Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields are juniors, but very much expected to make the early leap to the NFL once this college football season ends (potentially in the College Football Playoff). But, if the horizon becomes a bit too scary, respective returns to Clemson and Ohio State for senior year, while seemingly unlikely, would be options that were indeed on the table. Amateur and professional pundits alike have openly taunted the Jets with the idea that one or both would go back to school, if only to avoid the ongoing cesspool of New York football and to take advantage of the time-honored tradition of harvesting clicks through the “LOL Jets” subgenre. Peyton Manning partook in a similar gambit in 1997, choosing to go back to Tennessee after the Jets chose not to commit to taking him with the top pick after the one-win disaster in the final year of the Rich Kotite era.

In short, many have asked: what could the hapless Jets possibly offer an accomplished college name, especially one with a viable option like the back-up plans Lawrence and Fields have?

ESM feels there’s enough negativity surrounding New York’s green team; here’s what they have to offer to their new franchise man.

New York Jets, Joe Douglas
 (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

There’s Plenty to Spend

Even if the Jets opt to move on from Darnold, this season has proven that a simple quarterback switch isn’t going to solve all of the Jets’ problems. But there’s another list where the Jets rank toward the top, other than the draft order: the 2021 cap space table.

This offseason, the Jets will have just over $82 million of cap space to spend, trailing only fellow early picker Jacksonville ($85 million). It’d be fair for Jets fans to ask if general manager Joe Douglas is willing to splurge; after all, Douglas was blessed with some extra funds late this summer but opted to mostly stand pat with the team he had (passing on signees like Jadeveon Clowney and Logan Ryan). Many of the free agents that did join up with Douglas haven’t truly panned out thus far, some through no fault of Douglas or their own, instead being lost to injuries. But in comments made earlier this year, Douglas seemed to hint that this prior offseason, defined by short-term deals and a sense of hesitation, could serve as a learning experience, potentially hinting at bigger things in the future.

“I think we had a focus on what we going to try to attack in the offseason. That was on the offensive side of the ball with o-line and skill players. Ultimately, for a lot of different reasons, it hasn’t materialized this year on that side of the ball,” Douglas said, per notes from the Jets. “We’re going through this offseason, we’re going through what our processes were in the offseason and trying to figure out what we can do better moving forward.”

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

A Blocking Revolution is Well Underway

If Douglas has succeeded in one area during his year-plus on the job, it has been in doing his utmost to make up for the relative offensive line negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era. His first moves at the helm were to trade a draft pick for Alex Lewis and convincing Pro Bowl staple Ryan Kalil to come out of retirement. Lewis has been effective but injured, while the Kalil experiment failed to yield positive results. But those moves foreshadowed the much-needed rebuild of the New York offensive line.

In April, Douglas used the first draft pick of his Jets tenure (No. 11 overall) on a blocker out of Louisville. Upon hearing his name, Mekhi Becton became the first New York lineman taken in the first round since the legendary D’Brickashaw Ferguson in 2006. His drafting has provided sweet relief in a lost season, with his results on Pro Football Focus (where he is one of 15 NFL tackles with a grade of at least 70 in both pass and run blocking) showing a promising return on investment.

“I think he is a player that is going to help us long-term,” Douglas said in notes and video from the Jets. “We’re excited about working with him every day, because you’re talking about a young man that loves football. He’s very smart, he’s tough as nails, and has a rare size and athleticism. And still, he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do physically. There’s a lot of desire from him to want to be the best player that he can be, so we’ve made it our mission to sort of bend over backward to try to help him reach his goals.”

Some of Douglas’ other additions have not panned out, and that’s apparent in the current state of the offensive line. Greg Van Roten has been durable but inconsistent and George Fant has been average, but other additions like Connor McGovern (the one Jets free agency signee from last season with no cap savings on a potential out) and Josh Andrews have been most disappointing. There’s little reason to doubt that Douglas will once again look toward the free agent front to find protection through both experienced (Alex Mack) and younger (Joe Thuney) options alike.

The idea of a blocking revolution doesn’t even have to have a new quarterback to protect. It instead could continue at the top of the big board if Sam Darnold rises to the occasion over the final games. If that’s the case, the Jets could perhaps opt to choose tackle Penei Sewell out of Oregon to help not only Darnold but what will likely be a new weapons package. Sewell opted out of the 2020 season but has already declared for the draft. He will bring the Outland Trophy and unanimous All-American honors with him.

 Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Weapons Are Emerging

No matter who Douglas chose with the 11th overall pick last spring, he was going to annoy some subsection of the New York fanbase. For everyone who wanted a blocker, there was another who demanded that Douglas dip his toe into the pool of receivers available toward the draft’s middle stages. The Jets will face one of those receivers on Sunday with Henry Ruggs partaking in the Las Vegas efforts. New York also passed on Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Justin Jefferson in the process. A consolation prize awaited in the second round in the form of Denzel Mims from Baylor.

When it comes to Mims, it appears that Douglas’ patience is paying off. He had to wait a little longer due to training camp ailments but has since become one of the Jets’ most reliable receivers. Mims has since united with Breshad Perriman and Jamison Crowder to provide a spark to the New York offense. The two have played in each of the Jets’ past three games. In that span, the Jets put out a season-best 322 yards in Week 9’s Monday night loss to New England and their margin of defeat has trickled to an average of just over eight points. Without the trio, they were losing by an average of 18.

Despite some emergencies from de facto homegrown talent…rookie rusher La’Mical Perine was also starting to find a bit of a groove before landing on injured reserve…Perriman was added on a one-year deal while Crowder could be a cap savings casualty, so the Jets must take full advantage of their expanded cap space in an illustrious market. The team can probably get by with Perine as their top rusher (though an affordable, decently-aged veteran like Phillip Lindsay or Wayne Gallman could provide a nice compliment), but they must be ready to splurge in a crowded receivers’ realm. Allen Robinson will likewise be the top option alongside JuJu Smith-Schuster, whose rookie deal in Pittsburgh is set to expire.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Dabo Swinney hints at Trevor Lawrence going to New York

Narratives shape up around every season, and this year, one of the main ones for the New York Giants might not have anything to do with the season at all. Not directly, anyway. This, of course, is the narrative around the NFL Draft this offseason and what player the Giants will take. After the team started 0-5 and lost once again despite scoring more than 30 points, it’s getting easier to see why the Giants are projected to pick number one overall.

And if the team does pick that high, it puts them in an interesting position. The crown jewel of this year’s draft class looks like potential franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but the Giants already have their man. Supposedly. Daniel Jones may or may not have good job security right now, and we likely won’t know which way the decision makers are leaning until close to the Draft. The Giants could decide to stick to Jones and have faith that the current rebuild will yield results.

Or, they could push the reset button and take Lawrence, deciding that Jones was overdrafted out of a desire to quickly find Eli Manning’s replacement. As the results grow worse and Jones struggles on the field, more analysts are leaning towards the latter in their predictions.

Lawrence can spike the ball “when he gets to New York”

Trevor Lawrence’s college head coach, Dabo Swinney, is even aware of the hype about Lawrence heading to one of the New York teams.

Swinney bringing it up shows just how fast this narrative has spread through the league. But it’s easy to see why it formed so quickly. Both of the New York teams are in a terrible state right now, with the Giants being on pace for the first pick and the Jets starting with the same record and releasing running back Le’veon Bell recently.

The odds are getting higher with each week that one New York team or the other will have the first pick. Whether that’s the Jets or Giants, or even whether it happens at all, depends on the rest of the season. But thanks to strength of schedule, the Giants appear to be in the lead right now over other teams who have the same record.

New York Giants go for Trevor Lawrence in new Draft Wire mock

New York Jets, Trevor Lawrence

It’s the time of the year again when we’re talking about what player the New York Giants might select. But unfortunately, we’re only on week five right now. The Giants have quickly fallen out of contention for the division and as they languish near the back of the standings, talk is turning towards what the team may do in the offseason. Once again, that shift is happening while the season is still young and other teams are still in contention.

The Giants have a number of moves they can make. Firing Dave Gettleman looks like one of the likely ones barring an amazing comeback in the standings. Another, more controversial option? Going backwards in the rebuilding process to draft Trevor Lawrence.

The team already has their quarterback now, but it’s hard to be patient with Daniel Jones given the current state of the franchise. And Lawrence is the kind of college prospect that’s comparable to Andrew Luck or Joe Burrow in terms of hype.

Trevor Lawrence mocked to Giants

There’s already talks about Lawrence to the Giants, as Lawrence was mocked to the team recently by Draft Wire.

Yes, the Giants just spent a top-10 pick on Daniel Jones in 2019, and the team definitely has bigger problems on both sides of the ball. But nothing he’s done so far, nor his potential ceiling, are anywhere near enough for the Giants to pass on a prospect like Lawrence. Last year, the Arizona Cardinals proved that moving on from a young quarterback for a better one can be the best decision a team ever makes. If they can get a massive haul to trade down, that would be ideal, but if they stay here, it’s gotta be Lawrence.

This works under the assumption the Giants will draft number one overall. That’s not an unreasonable assumption given their winless start, but there is time to improve – or for another team to take their spot near the bottom.

Drafting Lawrence would be a controversial move given how the Giants already spent a high draft pick to get Daniel Jones. But if they do get rid of Dave Gettleman, they may find themselves in an awkward spot where Jones is the previous regime’s quarterback and the new administration has other ideas.

Unless his rough start is patched up, there’s no guarantee a future GM would want to build the offense around Jones in the future. Lawrence may be seen as a better long term piece, especially now that Saquon Barkley has had multiple seasons disrupted by injury. The Giants need to rely more on their quarterback to win. But whether that future quarterback is Jones or someone else may just depend on where the Giants end up drafting.

It’s no guarantee right now – but if they do end up with the number one pick, don’t be surprised if the controversial move of taking a QB is the one that’s chosen.

New York Giants: Get ready for the Trevor Lawrence hype train

If the New York Giants don’t get it together, a lot of the narratives this season are going to be around the quarterback spot. And not about quarterback Daniel Jones, who has a fair share of criticism after the first four games of the season. Rather, the narrative will be about Trevor Lawrence if the Giants remain on course for the number one pick. Specifically, whether the Giants should take the Clemson star with that pick.

Right now, the Giants nearly do edge out the other bad teams in the league to claim the top spot in the Draft. They’ve made it onto the path to the number one pick, a pretty far spot from where most thought this team would be a few weeks earlier. And now that the Giants look to be on this path, there’s naturally speculation.

Lawrence is one of the most accomplished players in the college ranks right now, to the point where he may be an option for the Giants with the first pick even though they already have Daniel Jones. Assuming they get the first pick, that is. From the looks of it, they’re just one of a number of teams positioned near the bottom of the league standing.

As for Lawrence, his performances in college haven’t slowed down – and that will only boost his draft stock barring a big drop off in play or an injury. He has 73 touchdowns so far and he’s not even deep into his third college season yet.

He’s been called the most accurate college quarterback by PFF based on their data, too.

Daniel Jones, by comparison, has earned a lot of criticism through the first games for his vision and his inability to prevent turnovers. Jones is still a young quarterback, and his offensive line isn’t good, but when there’s a prospect like Lawrence available soon, it’s hard to only keep eyes on what the Giants have already.

Jones has the benefit of being relatively new – the Giants will want to give him a full chance before throwing him out. But that’s not the same thing as invulnerability. If GM Dave Gettleman goes, Jones will be another player of the previous regime. That’s not always the safest spot as a starting quarterback.

Currently. the Giants are set to draft number three as more games happen. But the season is still young and the team’s record may improve or get worse when given the rest of the season. So it’s worth keeping an out for potential prospects the Giants may draft soon.

The Giants may end up with the top pick and they may not. But wherever you stand on Daniel Jones, it’s time to get used to the takes about Trevor Lawrence to the Giants, because we should see a ton more of them as both sides continue through their seasons.

New York Giants have best chance of landing number one overall pick, according to ESPN

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

Once again, the New York Giants are the talk of the NFL Draft less than a month into the NFL’s regular season. After an abysmal 0-3 start, Giants fans have lost hope in their team and have begun looking ahead to the offseason. According to ESPN FPI, Giants fans have good reason to look ahead to the draft.

The New York Giants have a 27.8% chance of landing the number one overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, per ESPN FPI. This is just ahead of the New York Jets, who have a 27.7% chance of landing the top pick. Right now, it appears that the race for the first pick will be between the two New York teams.

The Giants and Jets have a much higher chance of picking first overall than any other team. The team with the third-highest chance is the Jaguars, at only 8.2%.

The Trevor Lawrence Sweepstakes

There is one player that will be targeted with the number one pick in the 2021 NFL Draft: Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Few “generational” quarterbacks have entered the NFL. The prospects that get the “generational” tag are Peyton Manning, John Elway, Andrew Luck, and now Trevor Lawrence. That is elite company that Lawrence is consistently brought up with.

The team that secures the number one overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft will, far more likely than not, draft Trevor Lawrence. Even the Giants will need to give fair consideration to replacing Daniel Jones in that scenario. Jones has flashed great potential in his first 15 starts, but he has been far from perfect. If the Giants do end up with the first overall pick, it would be an indictment on Daniel Jones. The only way the Giants implode like that is if Jones not only fails to progress but actually regresses between now and the end of the season.

So, in that scenario, Dave Gettleman would be fired. Daniel Jones is Gettleman’s (and Pat Shurmur’s) quarterback and, without Gettleman, there are no ties necessarily keeping Jones with the organization. A new general manager would come in and likely consider Trevor Lawrence too good to pass up.

The same goes for the New York Jets and Sam Darnold. Darnold was an excellent prospect coming out of college who has looked impressive at times but has yet to put it all together. Trevor Lawrence, being an infinitely better quarterback prospect, might be the only sensible selection for the Jets at first overall.

Whether it is the Giants, Jets, Jaguars, or someone else picking first overall, the selection will be Trevor Lawrence. Of course, a team like the Jets or Giants could trade down for a king’s ransom if they believe enough in their young quarterbacks. But Trevor Lawrence’s ceiling is too high to pass up. He is a must-pick prospect for whoever lands the top selection in 2021.

New York Giants: Are Daniel Jones’s 2020 Turnovers Alarming?

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

Much has been said about New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones two weeks through his second NFL season. Already, fans are campaigning for the Giants to tank the season, get the first overall pick, and draft Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. The Giants have played two games in the 2020 NFL season, mind you.

Granted, New York has lost those two games. But they also played two of the best defenses in the NFL while trotting out aa brand new offensive line. The Giants were never expected to win those games, so why are fans in such a panic? Well, apparently, Daniel Jones is turning the ball over at an “alarming” rate. Is he really? Or are fans just used to their seasons ending in September, and subsequently freaking out over a few bad plays?

Daniel Jones’s Two Turnovers Against Pittsburgh

Daniel Jones turned the ball over twice in Week One. Daniel threw two interceptions en route to a 26-16 loss versus Pittsburgh. The Steelers have one of the best defenses in the NFL, so it is no surprise that the Giants, who were installing a brand new offensive scheme, struggled against that defense.

Daniel Jones’s first interception was made by superstar edge rusher TJ Watt. On that play, Jones was targetting Evan Engram on a short route. Engram was well-covered on the play, but not by TJ Watt. Watt read Jones’s eyes, jumped up, and made an incredible interception. It is hard to fault Jones here. Daniel did not throw into coverage and the coverage-man made the play. He threw to a receiver and a defensive lineman picked the ball out of the air.

So, most fans decided we could give Daniel Jones a pass on this play. He was not really at fault for TJ Watt making a spectacular defensive play. But Jones’s second turnover was horrific.

On his second interception, Daniel Jones had multiple opportunities to take a sack or throw the ball out of bounds. While rolling out of the pocket, Jones held the ball way too long and floated a poor pass (after his arm was hit) into the end zone that was intercepted by defensive lineman Cameron Heyward.

This interception was completely avoidable. This play killed a 19-play drive that would have been the best of Daniel Jones’s career. This was an ugly turnover, but has Jones made any more head-scratching decisions like this?

Daniel Jones’s Two Turnovers Against Chicago

In Week Two, Daniel Jones once again turned the ball over twice. Once again, Jones was facing one of the best front-sevens in the NFL that features Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn off the edges. Quinn and Mack got the best of the Giants’ offensive tackles in this game.

Jones threw one interception and lost one fumble in this game. But does he deserve blame for both of these turnovers?

Undoubtedly, Daniel deserves blame for the fumble in this game. Check out this play breakdown to understand why:

Jones, once again, held onto the football too long here, resulting in a fumble. But later on in that same game, Daniel found himself in a similar situation. Instead of fumbling the ball, Jones put two hands on the ball and fell forward to ensure he lost as little yardage as possible.

So yes, he deserves blame for that turnover. But he also deserves some credit for learning from it and not making the same mistake twice. What about his other turnover from this game?

Daniel Jones threw an interception in this game as well. On this play, Jones was once again targeting Evan Engram. Unfortunately, Engram slipped coming out of his route and was on the ground when Jones threw the ball. The ball was intercepted because of this. It is hard to blame Daniel Jones for this interception.

So, through two games, Jones has turned the ball over four times. Two of them have been his own fault, one of them was a spectacular defensive play, and the other one was the fault of the intended receiver.

Last season, Jones fumbled the ball 18 times in 13 games. So far, has fumbled once in two games and fans are ready to move on. Daniel Jones has started a total of 14 games in his career. He is young, he is learning, and he is improving. Giants fans need to be more patient with their quarterback. There are fourteen games left in the 2020 NFL season. Let’s table the Trevor Lawrence conversation for now.

New York Jets: Drafting Trevor Lawrence won’t help anyone

Premature mock drafts have Trevor Lawrence donning New York Jets green. But subjecting the college legend to this wouldn’t benefit anyone.

The New York Jets previously stunk for Sam. Now, the early stages of the 2020 season have them going on an endeavor for Trevor.

Fans and analysts alike have begun to turn on Darnold after a dismal start to the new decade. Through two weeks, Darnold ranks 28th amongst quarterbacks in yardage (394), 24th in completion rate (62.7 percent), and 26th in passer rating (82.6). Those numbers are bad enough from an established veteran thrower, where the modern struggles on the bottom of today’s quarterback ledger boil down to two cases: either the player is clearly past their prime (Tom Brady, Drew Brees) or is kept safe by a massive contract that makes them immovable (Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford). Those are issues that keep you solidified in the present, with the team around the thrower talented enough to keep modern affairs afloat.

But Darnold’s struggles have the Jets tensely monitoring the past, present, and future.

There’s no use in worrying about the past; Scott Lang isn’t coming to the gate at One Jets Drive with the secrets to time travel. The Jets can only take care of the present and the future. While the Jets (0-2) are already fading from a crowded AFC playoff picture, the next 15 weeks will be crucial for players and coaches seeking to earn spots and longevity, and to at least make a lost season look respectable.

As for what’s to come, plenty of prognosticators, amateur and professional alike, have opted to play general manager.

One of the greatest marketing moves the NFL ever made was evolving its from from a single spring weekend a year-long affair. The early stages of the regular season are no exception, as mock drafts for 2021 are already hitting the internet after the first two weeks of the season. Such premature projections have the Jets in the top spot after the brutality displayed in their first couple (though draft order haven Tankathon currently has the Jets picking 11th, with Carolina getting the top choice).

The name in that slot is none other than Trevor Lawrence, the Clemson legend in the midst of what’s confirmed to be his final collegiate campaign. Lawrence’s on-field prowess was already well-known, but the lead-up to a most unusual kickoff exposed his strong leadership qualities through his involement in both the push to play the 2020 season and the social issues gripping the country. Uncertainty peppers the future American landscape, but one of the strongest certainties seems to be that Lawrence will be the No. 1 pick next spring.

Clamoring for the consensus top choice is common and understandable amongst fans; it’s cheaper than therapy and a good hashtag earns valuable social media currency of likes and shares. But it’s not just the fans who envision Lawrence exchanging orange for green.

Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports has the Jets picking second, but with his top choosers in Cincinnati set with Joe Burrow, the Jets get a different kind of Tiger in Lawrence. Cory Kinnan of Fansided’s NFL Draft site had the Jets taking Lawrence as the first name outright. Noted stats and data site Pro Football Focus went so far as to give fans a visual aid, digitally placing Lawrence in Jets equipment.

If Mike Tannenbaum was still the Jets’ general manager, Lawrence’s surname might already be stitched into replica jerseys. Tannenbaum certainly knows about the trials and tribulations of franchise quarterback hunting in New York. His seven-year tenure (2006-12) oversaw the high-profile acquisitions of Brett Favre and Mark Sanchez.

“Trevor Lawrence is very similar to Andrew Luck. He’s a once-in-a-generation talent. And I don’t know how any team with the first pick wouldn’t take him,” Tannenbaum said on ESPN Radio’s Keyshawn, JWill, & Zubin. “Now you get into this discussion of ‘What could you get for Sam Darnold?'”

For all the athletic silliness New York sports fans have had to deal with, their patience has been rewarded by so-called “once-in-a-generation” talents through premium draft picks. Just ask New York Liberty fans about the all-too-brief Sabrina Ionescu experience this summer. The New York Rangers are projected to go through the same process after the branded ping-pong ball bounced their way, with Alexis Lafreniere expected to don Broadway blue at next month’s draft.

But, at this moment, a Lawrence-Jets merger would do neither side any good.

When one looks at the Jets’ offense, a unit that ranks in the depths of most, if not all, major stat categories, one would wonder exactly what exactly is the selling point. The 2020 offense is a culmination of modern and throwback negligence, one that finally may have found a cornerstone blocker in Mekhi Becton at the expense of generally disregarding the skilled weaponry. Would-be saviors Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims have dealt with injuries, as has reliable slot veteran Jamison Crowder. Tight end Chris Herndon has struggled to recapture the spark of his rookie season. Pricy rusher Le’Veon Bell has likewise dealt with injuries and the potential cap savings stemming from a hypothetical release ($5.5 million) may be too tempting to pass up next offseason.

It’s not like Darnold’s time in New York has been a total loss. Even with relatively little help, Darnold has managed to churn out the occasional masterpiece. A visual silver lining of Darnold’s escape from the San Francisco 49ers’ pass rush turning into a scoring strike to Braxton Berrios has made the rounds on social media this week, for example. It’s certainly possible for Jets fans to both call out Adam Gase and his coaching staff and hold the fan-favorite Darnold accountable for his own mistakes.

 Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

But with management, namely team CEO and chief decisionmaker Christopher Johnson, seemingly sticking to the “brilliant” Adam Gase, subbing Darnold for Lawrence would make the offense only marginally better and perhaps end a promising career before it truly begins…perhaps emulating the current, scary process Darnold is working through now. Lawrence’s ideal destination is a team that’s the proverbial “quarterback away” from truly contending. The Jets are many, many, many moves away from being a quarterback away. Subjecting Lawrence to this perpetual rebuild, especially one mored in a particularly scary brand of football, seems like cruel and unusual punishment.

Obviously, there’s plenty of time to make moves to further accommodate Lawrence, if the Jets find themselves in the Tiger sweepstakes. The team is blessed with one of the better cap situations in the league (set to work with just over $72 million at the onset of the 2021 offseason) and granting Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy a long-awaited, long-deserved head coaching opportunity would be a point of interest for outside help.

But, as Tannenbaum noted, the Jets arranged Darnold’s development years to be overseen by Gase, the alleged quarterback guru. While it’s possible one of them could survive a potential purge, it’s looking more likely at least one of them could be exchanged by 2021.

“The whole decision-making process was the Jets saying Adam Gase and Sam Darnold are going to be tied to the hip,” Tannenbaum noted on the ESPN podcast. “That’s our franchise for the next 10 years.”

That’s what makes the final 14 games so important for Darnold, who may be playing for his grip on the franchise quarterback role. He needs to make sure the Jets don’t even consider drafting someone like Lawrence. The Jets are blessed with an extra first-round pick over the next two seasons thanks to the Jamal Adams bartering with Seattle, but it would a major victory if they didn’t have to spend any of those premiere selections on yet another franchise quarterback. Granted, the Jets have dealt with so many calamities that one more would be relatively easy to deal with. But the very last thing a rebuilding team needs…other than a sense of hesitation that has been far too common over the first two games…is a franchise quarterback controversy.

The Jets already have enough to deal with, having dug themselves into an extensive hole as is. It wouldn’t be fair to drag Lawrence down with them.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags