The New York Jets’ 2017 season was unsurprisingly, a disappointing one. Most called it a rebuilding season, and interim owner Christopher Johnson bluntly said he will not be judging the season on wins and losses. If the goal wasn’t to win a Super Bowl, then what was the goal? The answer was progress–specifically in the young players likely to be on the team for years to come. So did the Jets make the most out of their rebuilding season and discover the cornerstones of their roster for the future?
The biggest question for the Jets going into the season was at the quarterback position. After 13 Josh McCown starts and 3 Bryce Petty starts, the question mark is as big as ever. McCown played fine football, but at 38 years old and an inevitable regression next season, he is not the answer. With many expecting Mccown to be benched mid-season, the most important question was whether Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg were any good. That question was asked and answered, with an emphatic no. Petty was nothing short of horrendous, leading the offense to just 3 touchdowns and 32 points in 3 games. As for Hackenberg? The fact that despite Petty’s tremendous struggles, Todd Bowles still considered Petty the better option of the two, speaks volumes. That’s all you need to know.
Offensively, there are still holes all over the place. The team could use help at every position. Offensive line, running back, tight end and wide receiver, all could use varying degrees of reinforcements. It’s quite disappointing that the Jets underwent an entire rebuilding season without seeing anything from their 3rd, 4th, and 5th round picks. What else are rebuilding seasons for than to see what the young players can do, especially late in the year? Wideout ArDarius Stewart finished the season with 9 catches, while Chad Hansen had 6. With mid round wide receivers making impact plays for other teams week in and week out, it makes those two picks look that much worse. Fifth round tight end Jordan Leggett was sidelined all season with an injury.
Defensively, it was a similar story as the offense, as some questions were answered while many still stand. The most encouraging signs on defense were rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Both had good to excellent rookie seasons and should only get better. It would be nice to see more impact plays and turnovers from the two of them, but that should come with experience (and more time at the jugs machine, Jamal Adams). The Jets should not have to worry about that position for several years.
At linebacker, Demario Davis was shockingly one of the best players on defense. He is a free agent, but it would be a mild surprise if he is not retained. In his second year, Darron Lee showed similar flashes as he did in year one, but was a liability overall. Can we trust him to take a legitimate step forward in year 3? The cornerbacks need a revamping as the walking penalty flags Buster Skrine, and Juston Burris are not getting the job done. Morris Claiborne struggled down the stretch and missed games due to injury, as he has done his entire career.
On the defensive line, Mo Wilkerson was a complete disaster, and yet finished with the second-most sacks on the team. Leo Williams was expected to make the leap to All-Pro caliber play and had 2 sacks. As a team they finished 28th in the league in total sacks and 24th in total rushing yards. This defense was below average everywhere but safety.
The Jets finished with five wins in back to back seasons, yet the overall feeling around this team is more positive than it was last year. If you’re going to lose, it’s better to do so with young up and coming players than old veterans on their last legs in the league–which is likely the reasoning for the change in perception surrounding the team. But which young players stepped up and solidified themselves as a legitimate starter in the league? To me, there were only six players worthy of that designation–Brandon Shell, Robby Anderson, Leonard Williams, Jordan Jenkins, Jamal Adams, and Marcus Maye. Is that enough to be satisfied with rebuilding season? We’ll find out in 2018.
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