The twelve biggest needs for new GM Joe Douglas to address for the New York Jets both this season and long term…
1 – Cornerback – The current outside starting cornerbacks are Trumaine Johnson and Daryl Roberts with Brian Poole slated for the slot. Johnson looked washed and checked out last year. Let’s hope that changes in 2019 but cornerbacks generally don’t age well. It is most likely the Jets get a version of Johnson that is between what he was in 2017 and what he was in 2018 but banking on 16 games from him may be a stretch. As for Roberts, he’s been a career backup who is now being asked to be a full time starter. You would feel a little better about it if he had a top flight option across from him but it is impossible to consider Johnson that at this point. Poole is basically a younger, more athletic version of Buster Skrine so expect the regular ups and downs that go with most slot corners. The depth here is concerning with barely used Derrick Jones and Parry Nickerson as the top backups.
This unit needs another legitimate starter added to it for 2019, which will be challenging at best and long term investment across the board in both free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a coin flip if Johnson and Roberts are here in 2020, regardless of their contract situations. Jones is an intriguing young player but it is unrealistic to count on him for too much going forward until we see more.
2 – Center – Jonotthan Harrison has spent the bulk of his career as a backup for good reason and is now currently slated to be another inadequate stopgap solution, similar to Spencer Long and Wesley Johnson. Despite the Kelechi Osemele addition, the Jets are not good enough at guard to get away with below average center play. There is no bigger priority for this organization than protecting Sam Darnold and there is no bigger wrong of the Mike Maccagnan era that needs to be righted than ignorance of the offensive line. In a perfect world, Douglas needs another starting option this year but more pragmatically he needs to find Darnold’s long term center this upcoming offseason.
3 – Edge Rusher – Jachai Polite was a nice swing in round three and Jordan Jenkins showed some Calvin Pace signs last year but the Jets still need more juice off the edge. You can ramble on all you want about how interior pressure is just as important but you need speed off the edge and you need speed at the second level to win the NFL. The Jets not adding a single player in free agency at edge considering the class that was out there was one of the final nails in Maccagnan’s coffin and something that Douglas will need to work to rectify through both the draft and free agency. If the Jets found a gem with Polite this need is less urgent but you literally can never have enough pass rushers.
4 – Guard – Brian Winters is likely in his final year as a starter for the Jets and Osemele has two years remaining on his current contract. Hopefully, the Jets get a throwback year from him and can agree to a short term extension to keep him around throughout Darnold’s rookie contract, while working to find an upgrade to Winters on the open market or in the NFL Draft. The depth here is also potentially a problem, as the Jets are not in good shape if they need to play Tom Compton for any extended period of time.
5 – Tackle – Both Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell are unrestricted free agents after this season, while the top backups are rookie third rounder Chuma Edoga and walking turnstile Brent Qvale. It is fair to assume the Jets will be looking for at least one new starter next season at tackle, with it not out of the question for them to pursue two. The team has not made a big splurge here in a long time and it is hard to think it won’t be a commonly mocked position to them in the first round of the NFL Draft.
6 – Wide Receiver – You can’t help Sam Darnold enough, so while this blogger is among the biggest Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa fan you will find, they still need more. First, the Jets need to make a long term decision on Anderson. Second, they need further depth behind Enunwa and Jamison Crowder because of Enunwa’s inability to stay healthy. Crowder has only had one banged up year but you can’t be one injury away from needing to play Josh Bellamy or Deonte Thompson major reps in your three wide. This is a position the Jets need to finally figure out draft weekend so they have some developmental options.
7 – Safety – With Jamal Adams positional versatility, it would be ideal if the Jets had a reliable third safety who could play major reps…nevermind potentially fill in for Marcus Maye if he cannot stay healthy. From a health perspective, this is a make or break year for Maye to show he can be Adams’ long term running mate or if the Jets need to find somebody more durable.
8 – Special Teams (Kicker/Returner) – As it stands now, Ty Montgomery and Jamison Crowder could be the returners and Chandler Catanzaro is likely the kicker. The Jets have successfully gone year to year with kicker recently but that probably isn’t sustainable. Finding a stable, long term answer instead of scouring free agency would be ideal. At returner, the Jets should be in the hunt to find exactly what they had in Andre Roberts last season.
9 – Inside Linebacker Depth/Speed –Right now rookie fifth rounder Blake Cashman would theoretically fill this role and maybe he can long term but more speed/passing down friendly backups to CJ Mosley and Avery Williamson would round out the second level of the defense.
10 – Nose Tackle – This is probably Steve McLendon’s final year here and we haven’t seen anything to make us believe Foley Fatukasi is a long term answer. A somewhat minor thing alongside the rest of the Jets defensive line talent but finding a quality two down run stuffer like McLendon to be here long term is on Douglas’ checklist.
11 – Backup Running Back – Ty Montgomery and Bilal Powell are strong options for 2019 backups but long term it would be nice to have a developmental player behind Le’Veon Bell with a higher ceiling than Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon.
12 – Backup Quarterback – A position we all hope is never seen on the field. Trevor Siemian is fine but finding a backup with more upside in the later rounds of the draft and potentially eventually become a trade asset is something the Jets should consider in the coming years.