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An early July ranking of the 12 most important players on the New York Jets offense heading into the 2018 season. Please note this is not a ranking of their “best” players but rather how critical these individuals will be to the unit’s overall success this year. Check out the defensive edition here.
1 – Sam Darnold – The most important person in the organization. Darnold is going to play at some point this year and whether that is 16 games, 10 games or a number slightly less than that (please, don’t let it be), his success and development on the field will closely mirror whether the 2018 Jets season is described as a success overall. Darnold playing well and progressing throughout the year to a 6-10 record is a more successful Jets season than Josh McCown and/or Teddy Bridgewater getting them to 8-8.
2 – Spencer Long – The anchor of the offensive line, which was completely busted last year with Wesley Johnson manning the role. If your center is a disaster, it has a trickle down effect to the rest of the unit. Long will be an upgrade over Johnson but that isn’t saying much. The Jets need him healthy for 16 games and based on his contract, need him to be in the top half of starting centers in the NFL.
3 – Kelvin Beachum – The left tackle, who had a quietly productive season in 2017. The Jets have limited depth behind him at such a critical position so they will be counting on a repeat performance this year before making a long term decision on either staying with Beachum or looking for an upgrade via free agency or the NFL Draft.
4 – Robby Anderson – As it stands now, the number one receiver on the depth chart and the top playmaker on offense. The Jets need him to continue developing and to provide a consistent, reliable deep threat for Darnold or whoever is playing under center. Anderson’s home run ability should open up the rest of the offense.
5 – Brandon Shell – The starting right tackle who has shown flashes of promise but struggled with injuries and consistency. The Jets have journeymen like Ben Ijalana and Brent Qvale as backups but the hope is that Shell can put together a solid season from start to finish and solidify this position for the coming years. If this offensive line unit is going to be league average or better, they need more from Shell than they got in 2017.
6 – James Carpenter – Coming off a disappointing season, after two very strong years to start his Jets career in 2015 and 2016. Carpenter has the most overall talent of any player on the offensive line but there are questions about how he will fit in Rick Dennison’s blocking scheme. If the Jets can get 2015 Carpenter, their interior offensive line should be in fairly good shape.
7 – Quincy Enunwa – The Jets chess piece and most versatile player on offense. It is hard to place Enunwa on this list because we don’t know how Jeremy Bates is going to utilize him. He has the potential to be the team’s leading receiver but should at least provide big plays from a variety of positions, while helping take away coverage from Anderson.
8 – Brian Winters – The last of the five starting offensive lineman. Winters struggled last season and has been banged up the past few years. The Jets are likely going to look to upgrade his spot next offseason if Winters cannot stabilize his play. If he struggles this year, Dakota Dozier may get a shot at reps.
9 – Bilal Powell – The Jets best overall running back, despite his age and lack of favor with the coaching staff. Powell is a valuable asset for any quarterback because of his ability to pass protect, catch the football out of the backfield and run effectively both inside and outside.
10 – Isiah Crowell – The favorite to lead the Jets in carries on early downs. Crowell is a boom or bust runner, who isn’t as productive in the passing game as Powell or Elijah McGuire but should receive the most opportunities to function as “RB1.”
11 – Eric Tomlinson – The only tight end on the roster currently guaranteed a sizable chunk of reps because of his ability to block. Chris Herndon is a rookie recovering from an injury and DUI. Jordan Legget was hurt all of last season. Clive Walford, Neal Sterling and Bucky Hodges are JAGs, who are not locks for roster spots.
12 – Elijah McGuire/Jermaine Kearse – A coin flip between these two depending on how the players ahead of them on the depth chart perform this year. Kearse is a reliable veteran target who will likely predominantly function in the slot. McGuire is a second year back best known for his ability in the passing game. It remains to be seen just how many targets/touches both will see with more prominent weapons in front of them.