New York Jets – The 2020 Predictions

Joe Belic with optimistic, yet realistic predictions for the New York Jets 2020 season

2020 hasn’t exactly been what many of us envisioned as we counted down the seconds heading into a new year. The Jets have a bumpy runway ahead of them, and all the turbulence around the Jamal Adams situation hasn’t made things smoother. I understand the skepticism surrounding the season and, yes, the roster remains a work in progress. Still, the addition of some key pieces along the offensive line, one of the best slot receivers in the league, a potential future HOF in the backfield, and the return of a specific dynamic playmaker keeps me hopeful. Amidst the turmoil, below are some optimistic yet realistic predictions for the upcoming season.

Le’Veon Bell returns to form and rushes for at least 1,000 yards:

According to an article by Rich Cimini, “Bell saw a loaded box on 36.3% of his runs — the seventh-highest percentage among 29 ball carriers (minimum 150 rushes), according to NFL Next Gen Stats. In his final season with the Steelers, the number was a league-low 24%.”

The acquisition of two vertical threats in Breshad Perriman (4.27 40-yard dash) and Denzel Mims (4.38) as well as Chris Herndon’s ability to stretch the field in his own right will inevitably result in lighter boxes.

Chris Herndon’s return shouldn’t be undervalued; his prowess as a blocker will also assist in opening up running lanes for Bell. According to statistician Michael Nania, “The Jets tight ends really struggled in the blocking department. On the year, the Jets offense only gained 22 yards before contact on 84 carries directed outside of the tight end, a horrifying average of 0.26 per attempt. Unsurprisingly, that was the league’s worst mark.”

An improved offensive line with the addition of soul snatching, rag dolling, nasty run blocker Mekhi Becton and starting-caliber center, Connor McGovern, will provide a considerable boost to a rushing offense ranked 31st overall, and an offensive line ranked 31st in adjusted line yards (3.80).

Nobody should downplay the impact Connor McGovern will have on the OL as a whole. The center position has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the unit and, in McGovern, the Jets finally have an anchor—for the first time in years—capable of galvanizing the squad and aiding in the resurgence of Bell’s career.

Breshad Perriman will rank Top Five in deep targets (20+ yards downfield): 

In 2019, Perriman was targeted 28 times on balls 20+ yards; good enough to be tied 6th in the league with Robby Anderson, Mike Williams, and Tyler Lockett despite playing significantly fewer snaps—281 less than Robby Anderson for example. The two played in different systems, and situational football played a role; nonetheless, Perriman hauled in eleven receptions compared to Robby’s nine. I might be higher on Perriman that most, but he’s a legit vertical threat, and I believe he’ll surprise some fans this season.

A tweet I sent out just hours before Joe D. acquired Perriman:

Chris Herndon will lead the Jets in TD receptions:

To suggest that Herndon was missed in 2019 is an understatement.  The rapport between Herndon and Darnold remains undeniable. The dynamic duo already hit their stride in the passing game with Herndon notching over 500 yards receiving and scoring 4 TDs in 12 games started his rookie year. That’s not a small feat considering tight ends have the hardest transition into the NFL after the QB position. According to PFF, Herndon scored a team-leading 74.1 overall grade (fifth-most among tight ends with a minimum of 50 targets) and finished the season with the second-highest contested catch percentage among tight ends.

In Herndon’s absence, Ryan Griffin had a bit of an awakening this past season, scoring five touchdowns in 13 games (tied for 2nd on the Jets and 7th among tight ends). Herndon’s versatility as a playmaker far exceeds Griffin’s, and I expect his numbers in 2020 to reflect that. Now, entering his third year in the league, it’s up to Herndon to keep healthy and stay on the field.

Just a little Chris Herndon touchdown showcase below:

Sam Darnold throws for 4,000 yards:

The primary source of this prediction comes from deep within my gut; I’m a believer in Sam Darnold. There have been some polarizing opinions on Darnold. Still, if you watch the film and analyze the numbers, he’s performed incredibly well considering the state of the roster and an abysmal OL.

According to Michael Nania, “From a clean pocket, Darnold had an adjusted completion percentage (filtering out drops, throwaways, etc.) of 81.7% in 2019, sixth-best out of 32 qualifiers. From Weeks 10-17, he was pressured on the highest % of dropbacks (41.9%) but ranked 10th in passer rating (93.3).”

Sam would have to average 250 Y/G to hit the target, and after 220.4 Y/G his rookie year and 232.6 Y/G last season, he’s trending upwards. With a revamped OL, another year under his belt and, hopefully, a full slate of games played for the first time in his career, another 18 Y/G is plausible.

If you ever find yourself doubting  Sam’s ability, just remember he’s the grandson of a man named Dick Hammer and makes some throws most quarterbacks could only dream of…

Crowder leads the team in targets…once again:

2019 Jamison Crowder:

  • Led the Jets in targets (122)
  • 19th in the NFL in overall targets
  • 3rd in targets from the slot (88)
  • 4th in receptions out of the slot (58)

There hasn’t been much to write about—if anything—regarding success within Adam Gase’s offense, but there is no denying one thing: slot receivers flourish in his system. Wes Welker, Jarvis Landry (131 targets in 2016 and 161 in 2017), and now Crowder have thrived in a passing attack predicated on short/intermediate passes. According to ESPN Stats & Info., “During Gase’s three seasons in Miami, his wide receivers caught 276 passes out of the slot, second only to the Packers (293).”

Crowder had his best season to date in 2019, and that’s with Sam sidelined for three games. It’s clear they work well together, and with a shortened preseason, existing chemistry could be even more meaningful than in years past. Also, three vertical threats in Perriman, Mims, and Herndon will undoubtedly open up even more opportunities underneath.