Whether or not the Jets will be a playoff team this year remains up for debate. While most fans and/or pundits are comfortable with some sort of progression, several conditions, if managed correctly, could breed a contender as early as this season. In this week’s “Joe Jet 5,” I explore the five most important components to a potential playoff run.
1) Front Office Autonomy: Well, I’m not going to lie, the introductory press conference for new GM Joe Douglas was an emotional experience for me. As a long-suffering fan, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the sense that the Jets finally got it right. At the moment, it seems like everyone is sitting around a campfire, roasting marshmallows and singing “Kum Ba Ya.” A bona fide man crush exists between Joe Douglas and Adam Gase, and Chris Johnson appears perfectly happy as the third wheel.
At first glance, this looks to be the Joe Douglas show, but nobody knows for sure how much latitude is truly being extended. Woody Johnson may be out of sight, but is he still pulling strings behind the scenes? In the past, Johnson left his prints on many personnel decisions. According to the New York Post, “By all indications, it was on Johnson’s stern orders that linebacker David Harris, the heart and soul of the defense, and receiver Eric Decker, a dependable, productive veteran, were suddenly and curiously released.”
The Johnsons must leave all front office decisions to Douglas. The owners can’t be swayed by fans or the intrigue of gracing the back pages. Wins and losses should be a direct result of choices made solely by Douglas and his staff.
2) Adam Gase: The Jets have had a lot of luck with rookie head coaches; the last 3 out of 4 landed the Jets in the playoffs their first year.
Inquiring minds want to know one thing about Adam Gase. Who are we getting—the prolific Broncos version or the tedious Miami Dolphins head coach?
Most of us remember Miami Gase. According to sources, from 2016-2018, the Dolphins ranked 24th in rushing yards, 25th in red zone efficiency and maintained the slowest offense in the league. Gase clashed with several players, and stars like Jarvis Landry were shipped out.
While with the Broncos, Gase called plays for one of the most productive offenses in NFL history. The Broncos broke multiple records: most points scored (606), touchdowns (76), passing first downs (293), 50+ point games (3) and five players scored ten or more TDs (previous record was three). Peyton Manning contributed with a record of his own, finishing with 55 passing touchdowns and smashing the previous record—set by Tom Brady—of 50. Subsequently, Gase was put on a pedestal and elevated to genius status. Many experts were calling him the next great head coach; a supposed future savior of an NFL franchise.
Of course, it’s fair to ask, was it Gase’s brilliance as coordinator, Peyton Manning or a combination of the two? Either way, nobody can deny Manning had the best season of his career with Gase calling plays.
3) Sam Darnold: While Patrick Mahomes—the son of a major leaguer—was under the tutelage of all-stars like Alex Rodriguez, Sam was still shooting hoops and hanging out at the beach with his friends. Baker Mayfield—who’s almost three years older—was already starting at QB while Darnold split time between linebacker and wide receiver on his varsity football team. Sam didn’t begin playing QB full time until his senior year in high school and one could argue he has the highest ceiling of all the young signal callers in the NFL.
His progress with limited experience is astonishing. With only 4 full seasons—from high school to the pros—spent at the position, Sam continues to develop at a remarkable rate. According to PFF, “between the weeks of 14-17, Sam Darnold finished with an 87.7 overall grade which ranked 1st among QBs with a minimum of 100 drop backs.”
With a new creative coach and a slew of versatile playmakers, it’s not unreasonable to think Sam can pick up where he left off. Mahomes, Wentz and Goff all made their marks as sophomores. If the Jets want to break an 8-year playoff skid, Sam will need to do the same.
4) Offensive Line: I’ve written several articles voicing my concerns for the offensive line. The main area in question was, and continues to be, at center. For three years in a row, the Jets have been stuck with a gaping hole at a position many call the “anchor.” How sturdy can you be if you don’t have something to hold you steady when the tides change and wind begins to blow? Most likely, at the bottom of the ocean with all the other shipwrecks. It’s not surprising to see a Jet parked down there too; a consequence of a poor strategy. If the Jets hope to win the necessary games to make a playoff berth, Harrison needs to massively improve.
5) Defensive Backs: The Jets weren’t shy about shoring up the cornerback position in 2018 and put down a sizable payment on a nice set of wheels. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, the check engine light appeared, service was necessary and the Jets were left questioning if they made the right decision.
The Jets invested heavily into Trumaine Johnson with hopes of acquiring a number one cornerback. As of now, Johnson hasn’t lived up to expectations. Hopefully, a reunion with his old coach, Gregg Williams, will galvanize a return back to form. According to PFF, Johnson enjoyed his highest overall (79.8) and coverage grade (78.7) with Williams as defensive coordinator.
Morris Claiborne is out—for now—and Darryl Roberts at this point appears to be the replacement. Roberts has been steadily improving since his rookie year; however, I can’t say I feel comfortable with Roberts taking on such a huge role. Fortunately, the Jets could very well play nine games against QBs with 3 years of experience or less, and the only two QBs on the schedule that give me pause are Brady and Big Ben. Regardless, if the Jets expect to be one of the six teams—from the AFC—marching into the postseason someone will need to step up.
The Jets have the resources to reinforce a struggling secondary; Douglas and Hogan’s knack for finding corners leaves me optimistic. Douglas has already been active on the waiver wire, picking up Montrel Meander (CB). While with the Eagles, Douglas remained instrumental in many personnel decisions, including the signing of cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc (CB), who has been a solid addition.
In a recent “Play Like a Jet” Podcast with Scott Mason, his guest George Bremer discussed Assistant General Manager Rex Hogan’s influence in acquiring free agent Kenny Moore (CB). Subsequently, Moore blossomed with the team; he led all players in sacks (3) this past postseason and is already one of the top slot cornerbacks in the league.