For Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles, the pressure to succeed in 2017 will be at an all time high after last season’s debacle. With a big offseason likely ahead, some may label this season as “Playoffs or Bust” for the Jets. However, with the team headed toward a complete rebuild, it would be unfair to judge the current regime based solely on wins in 2017. Here are three ways the Jets can succeed next season, even if they do not end up making the playoffs.
Develop the Young Players
Outside of Leonard Williams, many of the Jets’ recent draft selections have shown flashes at times but have not proven to be consistent starters to rely on every week. First round pick Darron Lee played significant snaps on defense last year, but he must build off his rookie season in order to solidify his role as the starting inside linebacker. Additionally, newly hired OLBs coach Kevin Greene will be tasked with developing Jordan Jenkins and Lorenzo Mauldin. The rookie Jenkins played well against the run in 2016 and Mauldin regressed after a promising first year, where he recorded four sacks. Whether both players become full time starters or not remains to be seen, but if they can be developed properly, there’s no question that they can find roles where they contribute to the defense.
On offense, the Jets have some very young, impressive receivers who could potentially develop to be great players. Wide receiver Devin Smith has spent most of the last two years injured, however, his home-run threat potential is intriguing. He’ll be competing in camp with 2016 rookies Charone Peake and Robby Anderson, who both saw a good amount of playing time last season. Anderson stood out the most of the young receiver group, and if he improves heading into year two, he could be in a position to start if the Jets part ways with Brandon Marshall or Eric Decker. Coaching up these young players would be an effective way to rebuild the roster, as many of them are on cheap, cap-friendly contracts.
Find Clarity at Quarterback
As free agency approaches, the Jets are sadly once again in the quarterback market. This year’s class has some real talent, especially if/when guys like Tyrod Taylor, Tony Romo, and maybe Kirk Cousins become available. There are also some lesser talented options who could be a fit in New York, such as Brian Hoyer, Nick Foles, and Matt Barkley. Who the Jets choose to go after will say a lot about how they feel about their current QB depth chart. Signing a quarterback like Brian Hoyer to a cheap contract would likely indicate that he is a bridge to Christian Hackenberg or another answer they find in the draft. However, if they decide to sign Tyrod Taylor or Mike Glennon to a multi-year deal, it’s safe to say that the front office and coaching staff does not believe in the Penn State quarterback. Either way, the Jets will be much better off if they find a consistent starting quarterback and avoid the fans and media barking about a quarterback controversy. This may not necessarily be an elite quarterback that will lead the franchise for a decade, but it will at least provide stability at the position while the Jets improve the rest of their roster.
Just Remain Competitive
One of the most exhausting aspects of the Jets’ 2016 season was watching the team getting embarrassed so often. Losses against teams like Kansas City, Arizona, Indianapolis, and New England were predictable, but the way the Jets lost these games was frustrating to watch as a fan. There were many instances where the team looked like it gave up after being down or did not look prepared to begin with. Part of this blame falls on the coaching staff, however, the players also need to be held accountable. The Jets are expected to cut ties with many of their aging veterans, so the team could end up being very young next season. Hopefully, this young team will be mostly made up of players eager to compete, which would be a refreshing improvement over some recent teams. Missing the playoffs for a seventh straight year would obviously not be ideal, but if the Jets in 2017 are a young, hungry team that competes and progresses every week, I would call the season a success.
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