From a “crazy-eyed” press conference to a “rift” in the front office, it’s been a bit of roller-coaster ride this offseason; however, things have settled down and the Jets are once again on course. Adam Gase and new GM Joe Douglas are gelling and Sam Darnold is on the rise. Nevertheless, many remain theorizing how the year will play out. In this week’s “Joe Jet 5,” I make five bold predictions about the upcoming season.
1) Double Digit Sacks For Leo: Yes, bust right through the single digits into the double-digit sack mark this season. Many fans forget that “Big Cat” is only 25 years young. Considering his age, it’s not unreasonable to think his best football lies ahead. Leonard has received some unwarranted vitriol for his lack of sacks; however, he isn’t fully to blame. Todd Bowles’ system wasn’t conducive to a double-digit sack season. According to Joe Blewett, of the TOJ Film Room, Leonard was asked to do a lot of “two gaping,” which is more of a read and react type of strategy. Gregg Williams employs more of an aggressive approach and will utilize Williams’ athleticism to the fullest. Expect to see Leo—more often than not—in one gap situations where he’ll be able to explode and penetrate right off the snap.Although it’s never translated to double-digit sacks thus far, Leo has remained in the top 6 for QB hits every year since he’s been in the league. Inevitably, within the right scheme, those hits will convert to sacks.
2) Jamison Crowder Will Lead the Jets in Targets: Gase’s quarterbacks tend to lean on slot receivers, which will bode well for a playmaker like Jamison. There have been multiple seasons where slot receivers have either led Gase’s offense in targets or had well over 100.
Gase recently praised Jamison stating, “A lot of the slot players historically have not been guys who are threats down the field. He’s actually a threat down the field, but at the same time he can catch it and create, which is going to be interesting for us because we’ve never had a guy who can really juice it up like he can.”
The Jets invested about $17 million in guaranteed money for Crowder. Make no mistake about it, he’s going to be heavily involved in Gase’s scheme. Expect to see the quick and elusive Crowder routinely open for Sam, and develop into the perfect weapon for a coach who loves to utilize the horizontal facets of the field.3) Gase’s Offense Will Finish Top 15: The Jets possess some of the most well-rounded players in the NFL. I can’t say enough about the group that will take the field this coming season. Le’Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder, Ty Montgomery, Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and Chris Herndon are multipurpose athletes, who’ll have defenses on the edge of their seats.
Last year with the Dolphins: Gase predominantly used the “11” personnel (74%), “12” personnel (17%), and “21” personnel (5%). Gase will run a similar offense this season, but the fashion in which he employs it will be vastly different. Gase no longer lacks the talent or versatility—especially at QB—necessary to execute his strategy. The Jets’ playmakers will allow Gase to easily create mismatches all over the field and the ability to interchange personnel groupings, formations and/or concepts will be a huge advantage. As a result, I anticipate the Jets will have one of, if not the most, unpredictable offenses in the league.
According to PFF, the last time Gase had viable QBs his offenses finished in the top ten: 2013 Broncos (#1 overall, 92.5 Grade), 2014 Broncos (#5 overall, 83.8 Grade) and 2015 Bears (#9 Overall, 81.7 Grade).
4) Sam Will Join Vinny Testaverde in the Record Books: I was hopeful Sam would break the Jets’ single season passing touchdowns record of 31, but I’ve tempered my expectations since the Herndon news. I fully anticipate Sam to reach that milestone in year three; Fitzpatrick’s 2015 performance is safe for one more year.Jets fandom got a glimpse of Sam’s true potential in the latter half of the season. Sam performed at his best down the stretch and posted solid numbers against some of the stouter defenses in the league. He led the Jets to a win, week 14, against a Bills crew ranked 8th in coverage. Sam threw two touchdowns—with an impressive 100.00 passer rating—against the Texans’ second overall defense week 15, and then followed that up with a 3 TD performance against the Packers in week 16.
It’s not important for records to be broken this year. Sam’s progression and command of the offense remains the most crucial component to success. Nevertheless, Sam will make huge strides and tie Vinny Testaverde with 29 TDs for second on the Jets all-time list.
Sam’s potential 29 touchdowns in 2019: Robby (7), Herndon (5), Enunwa (5), Crowder (5), Bell (3), Trevon Wesco (2), Ty Montgomery (1), and Bilal Powell (1).
Notable year two results: Patrick Mahomes: 50 TDs, Carson Wentz: 33 TDs (13 Games), Derek Carr: 32 TDs, Jared Goff: 28 TDs (15 Games), Andy Dalton: 27 TDs (if Andy can throw 27, Sam should have no problem with 29), Deshaun Watson: 26 TDs, Mitch Trubisky: 24 TDs (14 Games), and Andrew Luck: 23 TDs.
5) Trevon Wesco Will Become a Fan Favorite: Can you hear it now? WEEEEEEEESCO! I have this funny feeling that’s a chant that will reverberate through MetLife sooner than most would think. Well, maybe because I’m going to lead the charge from Section 116. Regardless, with Herndon most likely not playing until week six, it’s Wesco season in NY.
Wesco was an under-the-radar solid pick by Mike Maccagnan. Wesco is another versatile playmaker the Jets can utilize in multiple ways: TE, H-Back, fullback and potentially in the slot. He doesn’t have great straight-line speed, but he’s incredibly agile and quick. He ran a 7.18 second 3 cone drill, an outstanding number for a player who weighs over 260 pounds. His head coach at West Virginia, Dana Holgorsen, said Trevon was the best player on his team, not the best TE, but the best overall player on his roster!
I’m not saying Trevon is going to be a prob-bowler and I’m fully aware of the difficult transition tight ends endure from college to the pros but, at some point, one of his ferocious blocks (best blocking TE in the draft) or big-time catches will leave a lasting impression.
Respected scout Matt Waldman had this to say about Trevon, “This is a big, strong, and sudden player with soft hands, agile movement as a runner after the catch, and the bend to leave linebackers and safeties on the ground as a route runner. Chris Herndon had a good rookie year, but Wesco is the type of player who could deliver strong volume as a check-down receiver. The fact that he excels as a blocker will earn him playing time immediately.”
Note: All rankings and grades provided by Pro Football Focus