Even the most diehard fan will likely agree that the New York Jets haven’t got the season off to the best start. In fact, a recent game against the Jacksonville Jaguars proved they were completely unprepared, and playing against an arguably average team makes the loss even more difficult to accept.
If the Jets want to stand a chance of turning things around, big changes need to be made or it’s unlikely they’ll make the playoffs. Here are the various ways the New York Jets can improve in the 19/20 season.
Reset Their Mindset After a Loss
The Jets must quickly move on from the crushing defeat against the Patriots, who they will not have to face again in 2019 unless they manage to make it to the playoffs. It is crucial they don’t allow any loss to dent their confidence, so they will need to reset their mindset to step onto the field with ambition and self-belief.
It looks unlikely that Sam Darnold will have a shot at winning MVP for the 19/20 season, as he will be forced to play with a sprained thumb this season which is no easy feat for a quarterback. If the New York Jets want to stand a chance at the playoffs, they’ll need to overcome the many injuries plaguing the team. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum is hoping to make a strong return from practice while Chris Herndon is recovering well from his hamstring injury.
However, with Neville Hewitt facing a double whammy of a neck and knee injury, CB Trumaine’s ankle issue being monitored and C Ryan Kalil sustaining a knee complaint, the remaining players will need to work hard to make the playoffs.
Invest in the Offensive Line
The Jets’ offense is undoubtedly struggling this season, and the issues were a long time in the making. After all, the team has only made three total draft picks for the offensive linemen.
While the return of Sam Darnold undoubtedly filled many Jets’ fans with optimism for the season ahead, it still seems the team has a long way to go to dramatically improve its offensive line. Even the most optimistic of fans couldn’t help but be disappointed by the team’s performance during Darnold’s absence. During the three games he was out, the Jets only managed to secure a rather embarrassing 23 combined points, which led to many fans believing it was time for Adam Gase to be fired.
Darnold’s comeback will, however, light a fire under the offensive line, who are in desperate need of investment. He has already seemingly rallied the team, as his return led to the Jets almost shredding the Dallas Cowboys’ defense and resulted in a 24-22 upset earlier in October.
However, if the team want to keep the best quarterback they have had since Namath, he needs to be surrounded by a talented supporting cast. Darnold is now protecting his spleen by wearing special enhanced padding, but the team also need to work harder to protect him. While Gase will need to make short-term adjustments to strengthen the offensive line, it is essential to make major changes to the unit over the long-term.
If the Jets fail to protect Darnold, who is already struggling with a left thumb sprain, he could follow in the footsteps of Andrew Luck with the Colts. After enduring one too many hits and sustaining endless injuries, Luck made the decision to retire before he reached the age of 30. With the Jets struggling to secure franchise quarterbacks in the past, they must do everything possible to retain him.
Change Offensive Line During NFL Draft
The arrival of Joe Douglas, the new general manager, could breathe new life into the team, as he understands the importance of building a strong offensive line. The former college lineman has already stated his goal is to rebuild the Jets, and he will focus his attention on improving the trenches.
Douglas will, however, have an opportunity to execute his vision during the NFL draft come April. It is vital the first-round pick is used on offensive linemen. While the Jets might be struggling with various roster holes that must be addressed, the team should focus on protecting Darnold.
Focus on More Explosive Runs
It was easy to be disheartened when watching the Jets being thrashed by the New England Patriots this October, as both Darnold and the offensive line looked perplexed by the blitzes, which they must fix if they want to improve. The team has failed to reach 100 yards rushing in a game, so it would be great to see more explosive runs throughout the rest of the season. It’s not like the team doesn’t have the ability to do so, either, as Le’Veon Bell, who is one of the best dual-threat running backs currently in the NFL, is hungry to do so. Unfortunately, Bell hasn’t been able to surpass 19 yards since the start of the season, which could be due to the team’s many injuries as they are inhibiting his performance on the field. If they can work hard on the small details and finishes, there will be nothing stopping him from finally enjoying a run greater than 20 yards.
It would be foolish to deny that the New York Jets have a long road ahead of them, with it looking unlikely that they will make it through to the playoffs. While this is disheartening for fans across New York, it is important for the team to use this season to make various improvements. This should start with enhancing – and potentially overhauling – the offensive lineup to provide Darnold with greater protection, which he desperately needs to avoid injury.
If the Jets can protect their franchise quarterback and strengthen their offensive lineup during the NFL draft in April, the team could be in a much stronger position for the 20/21 season and might become a force to be reckoned with during next year’s playoffs.